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At the Wheel of the "Wisdom 

The Sea Gypsy 


Edward A. Salisbury 


Merian G. Cooper 


G.P.Putnam's Sons 
N^wYork & London 

TDje Knickerbocker Press 

Copyright, 1924 


Edward A. Salisbury 


Made in the United States of America 


[ KNOW of no good reason why she should have been 
called the Wisdom unless it was because the men on 
her were wise enough not to stay in cities when there 
was the open sea before them and all the world to roam. 
Or perhaps it was because the ship itself was as wise a 
little vessel as ever sailed when it came to knowing the 
ways of the sea. 

At Lloyd's she was probably listed as an 8 8 -ton sailing 
yacht, with auxiliary gasolene engine. But if she could 
have spoken she would have denied this prosaic de- 
scription, for if there ever was a ship in search of all the 
romance and adventure to be found in the queer corners 
of the earth this was one. She followed no regular 
travelled route nor any schedule of time, but sailed 
where and when she pleased. In fact, if she could have 
spoken and you had asked her to what category of ves- 
sels she belonged, she would have been quite surprised 
at your ignorance and said, "Why, of course, I'm a sea 



I. — Murderers' Island n 


III. — The Last of the Feudal Princes . . 54 

IV. — Guardians of the Lion of Judah . . 75 

V. — "As in Solomon's Day" .... 97 

VI. — The Lost Sea People of Sumatra . .113 

VII.— The Beast Men 146 

VIII. — Head-hunting through the Magic Eye . 165 

IX. — The Son of a Cannibal King . . .189 

X. — America's Happy Isles .... 205 

XI. — Lepers — and Women — and Fish . . 220 

XII. — That Calm Red Sea . . . .231 

XIII. — In the Port to Paradise .... 244 

XIV. — A Prince of Islam 265 

XV. — The Last Landfall of the Sea Gypsy . 285 



At the Wheel of the "Wisdom" Frontispiece 

An Andaman Island Bowman . . . .18 

Primitive Negritos of the Andaman Islands . 24 

An Andaman Island Warrior . . . .28 

An Andaman Island Widow with her Husband's 
Skull 3 2 

A Musical Instrument of Somaliland . 42 

In Abyssinia 54 

RasTafari in Court Costume 70 

At the Wheel of the "Wisdom" ... 76 

Abyssinian Chieftain 90 

Tample Gateway in the Island of Bali, Dutch 
East Indies 114 

On Lake Toba, Sumatra 120 

Great Stone Image in the Jungle near Palem- 
bang, Sumatra 126 

Rice Terraces in Java 132 

Temple of Borobudur, Java . . . .138 


8 Illustrations 


On the Decks of the "Wisdom" in New 
Hebrides 160 

A Solomon Island Warrior . . . .168 

Solomon Island War Canoe . . . .176 

Head Hunters only a few Years Ago . .180 

The "Wisdom" in the South Seas . . .190 

A Girl of Samoa 212 

The Sliding Falls, Samoa . . . .216 

At the Capstan of the "Wisdom" . . . 236 

In the Port of Jidda 244 

The Mecca Gate at Jidda .... 248 

A Sky-Scraper in Jidda 252 

A Water Carrier of the East . . , 258 

A Street in Jidda 268 

The So-Called "Tomb of Eve" near Jidda . 276 

Pilgrims near Mecca 280 

The "Wisdom" in Savona Harbor, Italy, where 
she was Burned 286 

The Sea Gypsy 

The Sea Gypsy 

murderers' island 

r T 1 HE song of the two Fijian boys singing up on the 
forecastle suddenly stopped — abruptly in the mid- 
dle of a note. Then in the dim light of the hot dawn I 
could just make out the figure of Andy, the New Cale- 
donian half-caste, his powerful gorilla-like arms swing- 
ing almost below his knees, as he came aft toward where 
I was standing by Little Johnny, the wharf waif I had 
picked up two years before at Tahiti. 

"Land, Cap'n," he said. 

I looked toward where he was pointing ; and there far 
away on the horizon I could just make out what seemed 
dark shadows on a purple sea. Landfall! No sailor 
ever grows too old to forget the thrill of the first sight of 
land after long days at sea. 

"What place that, Cap'n?" asked Little Johnny. 

"Murderers' Island," 1 answered. 

The boy almost dropped his grip on the wheel. 

12 The Sea Gypsy 

"What you say, Cap'n? You mean plenty fellow who 
kill men live here?" 

I grinned to myself, and said impressively, "Johnny, 
on that island there are more than ten thousand mur- 
derers. And what's more, Johnny, in the jungle are 
naked coal-black dwarfs, who kill everybody they see 
with bows and arrows." 

Johnny said nothing for a minute, but from watching 
his face I could see he hadn't been so scared since the 
day when Sam, my former black cook, brandishing a 
butcher knife, had chased him up the mainmast for 
stealing grub from the galley. Finally the little 
Tahitian shook his head: "Well, Cap'n, Johnny he no 
go ashore there. He stay on ship." And Johnny kept 
his word. During our two weeks' stay on the islands 
he never left the boat. 

But Andy, too, had heard the title "Murderers' 
Island," and there was a great buzzing of talk forward 
as the watch began to tumble up on deck at the word of 
land in sight. This crew of mine staring out toward the 
distant shore made a strange appearance, as strange, I 
think, as ever was collected on one ship. White and 
brown and yellow, most of them bare to the waist and 
with the loose skirt-like sarong or paren falling to the 
knee, all barefoot. Beside Little Johnny and Andy, 
there were Big Johnny, the Bos 'un, the son of a Fijian 
Princess and a Scotch trader, a perfectly built specimen 
of manhood; old Joe, a wizened Malay; Jean, a pearl 
diver from the Paumotos, small, silent and hardy; Jack, 
a Fijian bushman; Red from Seattle; and "Chu" and 

Murderers Island 13 

"Chin" and "Chow," three Chinamen from Singapore 
who had replaced my black boys brought from the 
States. The afterguard had come on deck, also, al- 
most as lightly clad as the crew, for most of them had 
discarded the pa jama habit for a sleeping garment for 
that of the sarong. There was Taylor, the navigator, a 
California engineer, small, wiry, a wonderful seaman 
and possessed of the calmest nerves under difficulty 
and danger I have ever seen; McNeil, the first officer, 
a big straight ex-Andover and Yale athlete; El Burg- 
hard, a hardy young ex-Columbia man; Cooper, from 
Florida, who had been an airman in France and 
Poland; Dresser the Dane, just come from three years 
spent in the Malayan jungle; and Zeller from Los 
Angeles. Of these all only Taylor and Mac and Red 
had started the voyage with me, when almost three 
years before I had sailed from Los Angeles in the little 
88 ketch-rigged sea gypsy Wisdom to wander up and 
down the strange waters of the world. I had sailed 
then with a white crew, except for the cook and mess- 
boy. But one by one they had dropped away until now 
I had this queer collection of sailors. 

Of all this crew I think the Chinamen and Little 
Johnny were the only ones who were really afraid at the 
name of Murderers' Island. Though the proper title 
of this island group in the Bay of Bengal was the 
Andamans, they could be called Murderers' Island in 
dead fact, for the only settlement on the entire group 
was at Port Blair, and at Port Blair the British have 
their convict colony for all the convicted but unhung 

14 The Sea Gypsy 

murderers for the hundred and one races of India and 
Burma. The Sailing Directions also contain a warn- 
ing for mariners who should be wrecked on this coast 
to 'ware of the natives, for outside of the colony of 
murderers all the rest of the island are covered with 
dense jungle, inhabited only by a race of tiny black 
pigmies, noted for their hostility toward strangers. 
Even the old Mohammedan Arab traders, those 
Jesuits of the East in daring and determination, dared 
not venture to them. It is only in the last half century 
that the real facts of the inhabitants of this island group 
which for hundreds of years has lain on one of the main 
sea routes, has been known to the outside world. The 
races of the East still maintain that this is the land of 

As we approached, we saw no signs of life along these 
island hills — no villages, no fisher boats, no living 
beings. Only the dark jungle which ran down to the 
silent sea. But the charts showed a harbor and, as the 
sun was coming up blazing red against the cloudless 
sky, we sighted a break in the jungle. We had come to 
the entrance to Murderers' Island. 

We sailed in, and saw that a tiny island hill, dotted 
with a score of red bungalows, lay off the mainland. 
We swung in around this islet, and there, a quarter of a 
mile away on the mainland, on a low, grass-covered hill 
in a clearing on the edge of the jungle, stood a huge, 
square, forbidding pile of red brick. I looked through 

Murderers' Island 15 

my binoculars and saw that every window was iron- 
barred. On the tower which crowned the stern struc- 
ture, there were leaning motionless on their rifles two 
bearded brown men in khaki, who wore the turbans of 
the Sikhs. It was a prison. Around and about the 
prison, I could just make out through the trees the 
thatched roofs of villages. 

On the little island, a signal-flag fluttered up, telling 
us to anchor. A rowboat came alongside, and a slow- 
speaking Scotchman, an officer of the Indian marines, 
stepped on board. He was the Port Officer. One of 
my companions and I went ashore with him and walked 
to a low bungalow at the water's edge. This was the 
club. Breakfasting in its big central room was a one- 
armed Major, wearing on his tunic the ribbon of the 
D. S. O. As we were served with cool drinks, the Major 
asked us our impressions of the Andaman Islands. 

"We haven't had much of a chance to get any as 
yet," I told him, and asked what there was to see. 

"Well, not much," he replied. "Only about ten 
thousand murderers. You know Port Blair, this place, 
is where they send into exile the murderers from all over 
India. We have 'em of all kinds here." He called, 
1 ' Boy. ' ' Someone outside answered loudly and shrilly, 
"Sahib" and in trotted a bare-footed Indian to replen- 
ish our glasses. The Major laughed. "That boy is a 
murderer, too." 

I thought to myself, "What a life!" And the 
Major apparently read my thought from my expression. 
"Oh, it's not so bad as that," he said. "Wish I could 

1 6 The Sea Gypsy 

stay here, by Jove, but no such luck. I'm ordered 
back to Burma. Now here comes a lucky man. He's 
been here twenty years." He pointed at a dry little 
man in spectacles who came in, was introduced and 
passed on into another room. 

"That chap's a forester. Dane or something by 
birth, but he saved a British ship. He was the en- 
gineer. The government asked him what he wanted as 
a reward and he chose a permanent billet here. Lucky 

The Port Officer, who had gone out, came in to say 
that the Governor was waiting to see us. As we 
plodded up the winding gravel road to the big mansion 
on top of the hill, we passed a two-wheeled carriage. 
It had no horses, but six sweating, half -naked natives 
were pulling heavily at the shafts. By its side walked 
a Sikh guard. Half reclining in the carriage-seat was a 
woman, her face almost as pale as her cool white linen 
dress. It was the work of the tropical sun, that pallor. 
I had been long accustomed to recognize its disastrous 
effect on the complexions of white women. 

"A white woman living in the midst of ten thousand 
murderers," I murmured to myself. "Unhappy crea- 
ture." But as I looked closely at her, as she returned 
our bow, I could see no marks of discontent. Rather 
she had the air of one to whom life has been good — very 

At the door of the Governor's mansion, a great white 
parrot screamed an unfriendly greeting. Several In- 
dian servants met us and led us through a long hall, 

Murderers' Island 17 

hung with queer bows and arrows, to a library. Its 
windows overlooked the great red prison across the little 
bay. I wondered what sort of man ruled over this 
colony of turbident convicts. I created a lionlike figure 
with bold features and hard eyes. The door opened 
and, instead, there came toward us a stooped, middle- 
aged man, the type one sees, book in hand, wandering 
under the elms of a college campus. He said in the low 
voice of the cultured Englishman, "Welcome to the 
Andamans, gentlemen." 

This was Colonel Beadon, with almost despotic 
powers. With a handful of whites and a company or so 
of soldiery, he rules over the thousands of criminals, 
most of whom are allowed to live quite freely in villages 
of their own. The prison across the bay was used only 
for the most desperate characters, and seditionists and 
new prisoners. This bookish Governor seemed to take 
the convicts as a matter of course, but even he appeared 
gripped by the mystery of a race of pigmies who in- 
habited the jungle. One tribe, he said, roamed the 
forest only a few miles from the colony, but could not 
be captured or hardly seen. The only sign the colony 
ever had of them was when sometimes at night they 
crept out of the jungle, killed a few convicts and 
escaped back into their impenetrable wilderness. 
When the Governor spoke of these queer little jungle 
people, his voice lost a little of its tone of semi-boredom. 

But I was much more interested just then in the life 
of these whites I had seen walking unarmed among the 
murderer convicts. So I asked for more information. 

18 The Sea Gypsy 

"Are all these Indians wandering around, apparently 
quite freely, really murderers?" 

He smiled. "Not quite all," he answered. "We 
have some famous dacoits (bandits) and a few political 
prisoners, but the majority are murderers." He 
pointed at the musty row of files which lined one side 
of the room. "In those books," he said, "are the 
records of enough romances to keep a dozen story 
writers at work for life. But perhaps the editors might 
not print the yarns; for they all have the same tragic 
climax — a killing and then exile to this place." 

"But if all these men are murderers, isn't there great 
danger for you whites walking about unarmed?" 

The Governor looked up as if a little surprised. 
"Why, no. There are a few — er — accidents now and 
then, but no real danger. No." 

The accidents to which he referred are of the kind 
that happened to a Viceroy of India who visited the 
island one winter many years ago. It was a Moham- 
medan convict who stabbed him to death in the midst 
of his retinue. 


I found this same attitude among all the white rulers 
of this strange place. This little group — not more 
than fifty in all — after the fashion of the English, took 
their bizarre surroundings as the most natural thing in 
the world. Instead of worrying about either convicts or 
savages, they had built themselves the club where we 
had met the Major — when half a dozen Englishmen 
settle anywhere they must have a club. 

An Andaman Island Bowman 

Murderers Island 21 

This club was a delight, with card-, billiard- and 
lounging-rooms. Part of the sea which washed up to 
its doors was fenced off from the sharks to make an 
enormous outdoor swimming-pool. A tennis-court 
was near by, and, wonder of wonders, a golf-course. 
These rulers lived in spacious bungalows on the hills. 
Big windows opened on every side with the sea-breezes 
ever blowing through. They had literally swarms of 
servants. And the servants had one peculiarity — they 
were all murderers. 

This I did not know until one dark night I went to 
dine with an officer and his wife, who live on the main- 
land on a hill above the convict villages. It was pitch- 
black when we landed, and we could just make out by 
torchlight a carriage drawn by six brown fellows, naked 
except for loin-cloths. We got in and our human 
horses started up a winding road. We could see no- 
thing but the glimmer of the lantern on the naked brown 
backs before us. We stopped at last before a bril- 
liantly lighted two-story bungalow-like house. Half 
a dozen servants, dressed in bright colors, were drawn 
up at the door. In front of these was standing 
our host. 

After a dinner served by an Indian butler with 
numerous aides, as we were sitting in the many- 
windowed drawing-room, having coffee, I remarked to 
our hostess that she did not seem to be bothered by the 
servant problem. 

"Well, I do manage to get enough of them," she 

22 The Sea Gypsy 

"All convicts, I suppose," said I. 

"Yes, indeed," said she, smiling. 

"I don't suppose you ever take in any murderers," I 

"No murderers!" she answered in mock indignation. 
"I wouldn't have anything else. You don't suppose I 
would tolerate a lot of thieves and robbers running 
about my house. No indeed, give me a nice honest 
murderer for a servant any time." 

I thought a minute. "And those fellows who 
dragged us up the hill, are they murderers, too?" I 

She smiled again and nodded yes. And when it was 
time to say good night, we rode down the hill through 
the night in the same rig with the same team. 

To me, those women of the Andamans will never 
seem quite real. They are figures out of a dream. 
There are only about a dozen in all. Each has her own 
bodyguard, a great, bearded, uniformed brown Sikh, 
with gun and bayonet, without whom she is never al- 
lowed to go out. When her husband is not at home, 
which is the better part of the day, her bodyguard must 
stay near her. Then, too, the Indian maid who 
dresses her hair each day may be a murderess serving a 
life-sentence. Also, though she has the luxury of a 
private carriage, there are no horses for it, and she uses 
the same kind of a team of six murderers as the one 
which took us up the hill that night. That white-faced 
woman, then, whom we had first seen with the con- 
tented look on her face, had had a team of murderers! 

Murderers' Island 23 

But soon we became so accustomed to seeing these white 
women riding about to pay their calls, drawn by mur- 
derer human horses, that we came to think little of it. 

And these women "carry on" happily, as do their 
men. From four to six each day is the time for sports, 
when, as the burning tropical sun begins to seek the 
horizon, they play at tennis and golf. Afterward comes 
a plunge in the ocean pool, and finally cool drinks in the 
room set aside for the ladies, before going home to dress 
for the little dinners they delight in giving one another. 

But in contrast to the life of the white woman is that 
of the brown and yellow and black-skinned women 
murderers I occasionally saw walking along the sun- 
baked roads. If it is woman's chief desire to be de- 
sired by man, then these women convict exiles should 
be the happiest of creatures. But I don't think they 
are. They are only a few among ten thousand men, 
most of whom have already killed because of love and 
jealousy. They are hot-blooded, desperate men — 
these Indian killers. They are Orientals and to them 
women are the beginning and the end of all human de- 
lights — better than the tinkle of gold coins one against 
the other; better than the blood of an enemy on the 
knife-blade. And here in exile these desperate men 
must forego the taste of the honey of life. 

However, a small percentage get women in a most 
peculiar way. When women murderers are sent to the 
island, Colonel Beadon has them lined up on Saturdays 
and put on the marriage-market. Then the exiles 
gather about in fierce crowds and bid for the treasures. 

24 The Sea Gypsy 

Only a dozen odd can be successful. When these carry- 
away their brides, they are followed by raging glares 
from the disappointed suitors. Too often tragedy fol- 
lows. When her husband is away in the fields, the 
woman finds a hundred lovers ready to dare all for one 
soft glance from her eye. Then comes a knife-thrust 
in the dark, or an open killing of both woman and lover 
and the end — with the hanging of the husband. The 
hanging is sure. The mild-mannered, bookish man, 
with whom Cooper used to play at chess, knows that 
the safety of all rests on swift punishment. Only a few 
days at most, and then up in the great red prison on the 
hill the gallows-trap is sprung ; there is a tolling of the 
bell, and all of Murderers' Island knows that their soft- 
voiced Governor is still the Master of Life and Death. 
I saw this gallows once when I visited the prison, and 
learned to my surprise that we were not the only 
Americans on the island. In the prison was a man 
who, though he might not strictly be called an Ameri- 
can, for he was a Mexican half-breed, had come from 
the United States. He was a native of southern 
Texas. He was the most hated, the most feared, and 
the most despised of all the prisoners. Men spat on the 
ground his feet touched, yet cringed before him as if he 
had the evil eye. He was the official hangman. How 
he came to be a life convict in this queer island prison 
on the other side of the world I did not learn. But there 
he was, receiving ten rupees a head for each man he 
hanged and some lesser sum for his work at the whip- 
ping-post. There was in the prison also another man 

Primitive Negritos of the Andaman Islands 

Murderers' Island 27 

who had lived long in America. He was a Sikh, who 
had been in California for many years. When we told 
him good-by, his eyes seemed to look over the seas 
and see the orange groves and smiling fields of that dis- 
tant land, as he said to us: "You are going back to 
America. Back to America. Oh, if I could only see 
it once more!" There were tears in his eyes as we 
turned and went away. 

In the prison, too, I remember one old, bowed 
convict who wore around his neck the tag which 
showed he had three times made a break for liberty. 
Nevermore would he see the light of day outside of 
prison- walls. Upon these men who try to escape, the 
punishment is ruthless. They are put back into the 
prison, and there they stay until the end. This old man, 
a Burmese, and a woodsman, who knew the stars, had 
braved the cyclone-swept Bay of Bengal in a canoe he 
had burned out of a log. He was picked up three- 
quarters of the way to safety, paddling gamely on, 
though half dead from exposure and thirst. Indeed, 
few of the murderers ever escape, despite their freedom 
from guards and prison-walls. If they try the sea, an 
upturned canoe marks their end. If they try the 
forest, they are usually found with an arrow in their 
backs. But sometimes they are never heard of again, 
and only the jungle pigmies can tell how they died. 


In all the years the English have lived on the An- 
damans, they have never been able to do anything with 

28 The Sea Gypsy 

the Jawaras, as is called the tribe of the Andamanese 
dwarfs on this prison island. These pigmies resist 
both force and kindness. Just before we arrived, a 
punitive expedition had been out after them, as the 
result of a raid, and had spent three miserable weeks in 
the jungle without even coming in contact with them. 
Sometimes, however, Burmese dacoits among the con- 
victs are given long knives and a bag and turned loose 
in the jungle. Once in a while they come back with a 
diminutive black head in the bag and receive a reward 
of a few rupees, but more often they never return. 

I became tremendously interested in these pigmies, 
for I learned that they were among the most primitive 
of all humans. If it is true, as some anthropologists 
believe, that life first came into being in southern Asia, 
then these little aborigines may be forerunners of man- 
kind ; for it is probable that they inhabited this part of 
the world before the migrations swept down from 
southern Asia and obliterated all traces of them except 
in three remote localities. In two of these, one a wild 
spot in the Philippines, and the other a district in the 
central part of the Malay Peninsula, they have lost 
many of their original traits by contact with other 
peoples. On the Andaman Islands alone have they 
remained isolated. 

Though no contact can be made with the An- 
damanese who live on the island of Port Blair, occa- 
sionally some one of the wild little fellows from some of 
the other islands paddles up to a spot three miles from 
the prison, where the British have had a hut erected for 

An Andaman Island Warrior 

Murderers' Island 31 

them. A few years ago, before the British gave up in 
despair of ever civilizing them, the little forester, whom 
I had met in the club, had been the officer charged with 
attempting negotiations. With him I went to this 
hut, and was lucky enough to find several families. A 
half dozen were standing at the water's edge when our 
launch chugged up. 

I thought at first that the reports of their smallness 
had been exaggerated, but as we stepped ashore, I 
realized that they are indeed dwarfs — so perfectly 
formed, however, that it was not until I stood beside 
them that I realized how small. One of the tiny 
women, not more than four feet, three inches in height, 
caught my attention immediately. She had what ap- 
peared to be a huge white ornament hanging about her 
neck. I went closer and almost jumped with astonish- 
ment. The ornament was a ghastly human skull, 
white and grinning against her bare black breasts. 

The forester laughed. "The women wear the skulls 
of their dead husbands as loving souvenirs," he said. 
And then he told us how, when a man dies, the little 
people blow on his face to say good-by, bury him, and 
then desert the camp in which they are living. After 
several months they come back, dig up the bones and 
wash them in the sea. Finally they hold a dance in 
honor of the dead man's skull, paint it with red ocher 
and white clay and give it and the jaw-bones to the 
chief mourners, who wear them hung about their necks 
on fiber strings, like huge stones on a necklace. 

Another woman we saw squatting on the ground, 

32 The Sea Gypsy 

apparently examining her child's arm. But when we 
went forward to see her, she was cutting a row of little 
cuts around it — the boy's body was covered with rows 
of scars. The Andamanese believe that every child is 
born with evil spirits within him. So the mother 
every two or three months lets the spirits escape 
through these cuts. As a result, all the men and women 
have their entire bodies covered with scars. 

At the request of our forester, the Andamanese held 
a mock marriage ceremony. Two who had recently 
been married acted as the bride and groom. There 
was a dance ; then the young man pretended to flee into 
the jungle. The other men ran after him, bringing 
him back to where the bride was sitting on the ground, 
surrounded by the women. With loud shouts, the men 
plumped the lad down in the girl's lap, and all, men and 
women alike, threw themselves on top of the bride and 
groom, like football players on a loose ball, weeping 
and wailing as if in mortal grief. From fifty yards 
away, the bridal party looked like a huge black 

Standing near this marriage ball was a girl, her body 
covered with long zigzag designs in white. She re- 
fused to enter into the fun. The forester explained that 
she was a debutante, as her paintings showed, and that 
marriage was much too important an affair for her 
to enter into sport about it. She had but lately re- 
ceived her "flower name." Every pigmy girl must be 
called after a flower when she matures into woman- 
hood. She passes through an elaborate three-day 

Murderers' Island 35 

ceremony to receive this name, during which she is 
allowed neither to eat nor sleep. At the end of that 
time a name is selected for her after one of the jungle 
trees or plants in bloom at that time, to show that the 
girl herself has bloomed into womanhood. Hence- 
forth she is never known by her childhood name. She 
is now a young lady of very few social restrictions, and 
considerable influence. 

But to my mind the strangest thing about these 
pigmy nomads is that they know no way of making 
fire. Each family has a fire of their own, which they 
keep always going. When the}' travel, they carry the 
fire with them, thinking it a gift from the gods, that, 
if once extinguished, they may never relight. The 
Andamanese are the only human beings I have ever 
heard of who do not know how to make fire. 

Some days later we were sailing past one of the 
southern islands of the group when Jack, the Fiji bush- 
man, came aft to me and said: 

"You want turtle eggs, Cap'n? You let Jack go 
ashore here. He bring you plenty nice turtle eggs." 

Now, as Jack knew from past experience, 1 like turtle 
eggs, so we sailed a couple of hundred yards from the 
shore; and Dresser, the Dane, Cooper, Andy, Big 
Johnny and Jack lowered the dory over the side, 
dropped in and rowed ashore. The breakers were roll- 
ing in against a white sandy beach, and the landing 
party had to run the boat in through the heavy surf. 

36 The Sea Gypsy 

But to the native boys in the dory this was child's play. 
They ran the heavy surf with shouts of delight, and in 
half a minute we watchers from the yacht saw the bow- 
men leaping into the water and hauling the small boat 
up on the beach. 

I cruised away in the yacht, and in a couple of hours 
returned to pick up the turtle egg hunters. Through 
the glasses I could see them, sporting stark naked in the 
surf, Andy and Johnny running knee deep and then 
turning front flips. But Jack was standing back, ap- 
parently on guard, for he had in his hand the shotgun 
which they had taken ashore, and was apparently 
watching for something to come out of the jungle. 
Seeing our return signal flag they were soon aboard. 
From the bottom of the dory they brought out a great 
sack filled with giant crabs, but nothing else. 

"Where are the turtle eggs?" was the immediate 
demand from everybody who had stayed aboard. 

And then came a hubbub of explanations. It seemed 
that when the party landed they had seen in the clear 
water above the white sand scores of great turtles 
swimming about. "Den Jack think dat beach have 
plenty turtle eggs," said Jack. 

Then the party had gone up the beach a little way 
hunting for turtle egg nests, Jack in the lead by fifty 
yards. All of a sudden he stopped, then turned, and 
came running back like mad. "Run, run. Dis island 
full of debils," he cried. The others finally stopped 
him, and found out that he had seen a "debil bigger 
dan a canoe crawling about in de bushes," and the 

Murderers' Island 37 

thing had stuck out a tongue "four foot long and 
all over with blood.' ' Everybody armed himself with 
sticks, Dresser carrying the one shotgun brought 
ashore, and went forward to investigate. On the 
beach were half a dozen black scaly looking figures, 
looking something like alligators, yet somehow quite 
different. At the sight of the men the "debils" 
stopped. The men approached, ready to run any 
second, and one of them picked up a piece of big 
shell and hurled it at the nearest of the beasts. Out 
came a long red tongue, a spitting. Then the men 
attacked. Dresser fired a shotgun into the open mouth, 
and as the animal rolled over, the others pounded its 
head with sticks. The other beasts scuttled into the 
edge of the jungle. The now elated hunters measured 
the dead thing, and found it to be about four feet long. 
They said it looked like a giant lizard. 

Here Taylor stopped the story with, "Must have been 
an iguana such as are in South America. Why you can 
catch them by the tails. They are harmless.' ' 

"Ketch him by the tail? You go ashore and ketch 
him, Cap'n Taylor. Jack he stay on ship," was the 
answer from the leader of the turtle egg hunters. 

The rest of the party swore that there were giant 
lizards far bigger than the ones they had killed, hun- 
dreds of them. "As big as young horses," said the 
Dane shaking his head. At any rate the animals had 
eaten up all the turtle eggs; and, unless the merchant 
in Colombo whom someone of the ship's company 
told about this island, has devastated it to get hides for 

38 The Sea Gypsy 

purses and slippers, there is a fruitful field for scientists 
on this island in the Andamans. 

But the time came to leave the Andamans at last. 
In fact we never sailed back to Port Blair after the 
turtle egg hunt, for to us gypsies of the sea two weeks 
at any place was a long, long time, no matter how inter- 
esting the spot. So we sailed away toward the Indian 
Ocean. But someday I would like to go back to that 
strange island where live the ten thousand killers of a 
hundred different races, where white women ride about 
in carriages drawn by murderers, and aboriginal black 
pigmies come stealing out of the jungle fastnesses to 
peer curiously at it all. I would like to go back, but 
the world is very big when one wanders it up and down, 
and I suppose I never shall. 



""pHE coast of French Somaliland loomed ahead, a 
* desolate stretch of burning sand. The sun beat 
down unmercifully on a group of white coral-rock 
houses on the edge of the desert. The only sign of green 
was a garden made up of a few trees and bushes planted 
before the Governor's big mansion which lay on the 
edge of the mud flat which made hideous the front of 
the town. From the deck of the Wisdom we could see 
not a moving thing. The place seemed not dying but 

Our quarantine flag was finally answered by a dozen 
naked black urchins who swam about the ship, grinning 
cheerfully and crying, "Deux sous, d, la mer-deux sous, d, la 
mer" a signal that they were willing to plunge into the 
water on the chance of bringing up a copper piece. Rex 
and Dusty, the two ship's dogs, Airedales, leaped into 
the water after the swimmers, who fled yelping more 
loudly than the dogs. After about two hours a rowboat 
paddled lazily out, and a native came on board, who 


40 The Sea Gypsy- 

said he was the assistant to the port doctor. This 
was our sole official welcome to French Somaliland. 

It seemed as if our sea gypsy had brought us to a 
spot where the adventure and color of romance was 
dead. But in reality we were at the gateway to one of 
the most interesting spots on earth, which some of us 
were soon to visit. For behind this desert of French 
Somaliland high up in the mountains of northeast 
Africa there is one of the oldest kingdoms in the world, 
which for a thousand years was lost to the outside 
world. It is almost as large in area as France and Ger- 
many combined and is inhabited by some ten millions 
of people. The kingdom is called by the outer world, 
Abyssinia. Before I visited it my idea of Africa had 
been one of naked black savages living under the rule 
of European governors. I found in Abyssinia a grave 
and courtly young man who claims direct descent from 
King Solomon and Queen Sheba, ruling, as the Regent 
of a figurehead Empress, and ruling as the most abso- 
lute monarch left in the world, I think. Even the 
Kaiser of Germany and the Czar of all the Russias in 
the days of their might had no such power over their 
people as this Abyssinian Prince over his. No con- 
stitution nor parliament nor cabinet check the au- 
thority of Tafari of Abyssinia. He is the Lord of Life 
and Death — the Master absolute. 

And Ras Tafari and most of the ruling class are 
Christians. Indeed for over a thousand years his land 
has been a Christian island in a sea of pagans and 
Mohammedans. But the Christianity is that of the 

Somaliland to Abyssinia 41 

East, of the East of a thousand years ago, and is super- 
imposed on old Judaism and pagan superstitions. The 
High Priests still dress in the rich, multicolored silken 
robes of the Priests of the Temple of Solomon, and be- 
fore them on religious days walk attendants blowing 
trumpets, the duplicates of those that blew down the 
walls of Jericho. The Abyssinians belong to a mixture 
of the feudal age, and before. Their favorite dish is 
raw meat, freshly killed and smoking; the nobles know 
no duty but warfare and the hunt of the lion and the 
elephant (I was told that in the far west some still hunt 
on horseback with the sword) ; every household of im- 
portance has many slaves, and — but let Cooper tell the 
story of Abyssinia. I was forced to return from its 
mountain capitol to the Wisdom at Jibuti owing to ill- 
health, while Cooper, Taylor, and Schoedsack (the 
latter a new member of the party, who joined us as a 
motion picture operator), remained in Abyssinia. 
Therefore Cooper's tale is more complete than mine. 

Cooper's Story 

Captain Salisbury decided that Taylor and I should 
go up to Addis- Abeba first. But we were forced to 
wait a couple of days for a train, as the trains only run 
twice a week. I am glad we did not have to stay in 
Jibuti longer. In one night I saw all that I wished. 
Taylor, McNeil and I were ashore to look over the 
town. We soon became tired of the European quarter, 

42 The Sea Gypsy 

where live about five hundred Greeks and French. 
Nothing to see but unlighted houses along a half-dozen 
sun-baked prisoner-swept streets lined with oleander 
bushes; and in the center a square on which faced a 
shabby Greek hotel with a fly-infested drinking-room 
and tables on the sidewalk. In the heavy, hot night 
air about these tables sat some of the pasty-faced white 
population, drowsily drinking. The only movements 
were the swish of the punka in the drinking-room and 
the flutter of the big palm fans wielded by diminutive 
almost naked black boys as they drove the insects away 
from roosting places on their master's drink-veined 

We drank one drink, then, "Let's get out of this," 
said McNeil with disgust. 

We wandered down one of the unlighted streets and 
in two minutes came to a steep slope. Here the street 
seemed to fall off abruptly into the darkness. We 
could just make out below the great market-place, sur- 
rounded by little native shops. The place was filled 
with dark shapes, dimly seen by the little fires which 
dotted it, flickering below us like fireflies. We half- 
walked, half-crawled down the incline. Below we 
found ourselves in a sea of muck and mud. Sleeping 
on every side were hundreds of camels, sheep and asses, 
while about the fires lay their masters, black Somalis 
of the desert. 

We turned to the left and plunged down one of the 
side streets. It was pitch dark. The light of torches 
glowed far away, and thence came the sound of chant- 

A Musical Instrument of Somaliland 

Somaliland to Abyssinia 45 

ing. We stumbled through the filth toward these 
lights, bumping now and then into some barefooted 
figure slipping through the darkness like a black ghost. 
The torches came nearer, the sound of singing higher. 
We stepped back against the thatched wall of a house. 
Past us slowly came a procession of a hundred or more 
long-robed, turbaned men, grouped tight about the 
flag of the Crescent. Their voices rose and fell in their 
weird chanting. Their faces showed by torchlight 
fierce with religious ecstasy. By our sides a woman 
hid her face against the wall and shrilled a piercing cry 
"lu-lu-lu-lu." Other women's voices took it up. And 
from far and near the air became alive with the shrill 

The torches turned down another narrow valley. 
Blackness again. A woman, tall, full-bodied, black, in 
a loose white robe came and stopped in front of us mut- 
tering, then another, and another, and another. In a 
minute the whole street was filled with them — Ama- 
zons, filthy-smelling. The muttering rose into cries 
and bickering. They pawed at our clothes. Somali 
talk, Arab talk, broken French, broken English. The 
first huge woman was the most persistent. "See de 
Arab dance, de Somali dance, de Indian dance," she 
cried over and over again. 

"Well," said Taylor, "here's a chance to see the 
famous and beautiful and sensuous dances of the East. 
Let's go." 

The women led us down a muddy alley, pushed open 
a gate, then led on through a little courtyard to a small 

46 The Sea Gypsy- 

hut of thatch and mud. The big woman struck a match 
and lighted a candle. The room was only a very 
moderate-sized one. Two high board beds, on which 
lay gaudy covered mattresses, filled most of the space. 
An unpainted wood shelf held an English china tea set. 
The floor space of packed dirt which was left was no 
bigger than that which could be covered by a big 
double bed. 

" The lovely theatre of the dancers of the East," said 

We climbed on the edge of a bed and called for a 
Somali dance. 

The women clapped their hands and shuffled awk- 
wardly. There was hardly space there for the three to 

"Enough, Arab dance," we said. 

The women clapped their hands, and again shuffled — 
just as before. 

Came a pounding on the door, and shrill cries from 
without. One dancer quit and put her back against 
the door. The others paid no attention to the racket. 

" Indian dance," we cried in unison. 

Once more exactly the same clapping and shuffling. 
We paid our money and went out to face a score of 
other dancers, who had been banging the door hoping 
to get in to show their skill also. But we pulled away 
from their clutches, and made for the ship. 

These dancers and the fly-ridden cafe are Jibuti's 
only amusements. Absolutely nothing else. No won- 
der the whites seem indescribably listless. What a 

Somaliland to Abyssinia 47 

contrast they made to an English colony where the 
men and women alike keep fit at all costs! Indeed, 
Jibuti has no claim for existence at all except as the port 
to Abyssinia, whence come down hides and coffee, 
most of which, after passing through the hands of 
numerous foreign middlemen, arrives at last in America. 
The dawn was just coming over the sea the next 
morning when Taylor and I were driven down to the 
little station. A tiny train was waiting — an engine and 
four diminutive openwork cars, marked third class, 
filled with chattering natives, and a fifth car divided 
into two parts, one second and the other first class. 
We piled our baggage into the latter ; waved good-by to 
Billings, (the only Englishman in Jibuti and a fine 
chap), who had come down to the station in his carriage 
driven by two big white horses — quite the smartest 
turnout in Somaliland; the little engine gave a few 
feeble chugs ; and we were off for Abyssinia. 


The distance inland from Jibuti to Addis-Abeba in 
the highlands of Abyssinia is only five hundred miles, 
but it takes three days to make the trip. There are 
three good reasons for this — the train doesn't run at 
night, what of the fear of the railroad officials that it 
will be derailed and plundered by the wild tribes of the 
desert ; secondly, there is a comfortable stop each noon 
for lunch ; and lastly, the none-too-powerful engine has 
to pull on an upgrade, for Addis-Abeba is a full eight 
thousand feet above the sea level of Jibuti. 

48 The Sea Gypsy 

Realizing we had a good long trip before us Taylor 
and I proceeded to settle down. So did our fellow 
passengers, a half dozen whites. We hauled a couple 
of books from our musset bags ; but the other voyageurs, 
being Latins, fell into talk, and I soon deserted my 
book to shamelessly listen and at last join in, for the 
stout grey -haired French woman with the red face who 
sat aross from me was telling about life in Harkov in 
Russia. Her husband had been chief engineer of the 
station apparently, and her talk brought back to me 
vividly the remembrance of the hours I spent lying flat 
on its platform nursing a bad leg — for I was a prisoner 
— while my guards and I waited for the Moscow train. 
She and her husband had lost their all in the Revolu- 
tion, and he was now starting life over again at fifty- 
eight as one of the assistant-superintendents of this 
little track of line in a forgotten part of Africa. This 
cheerful, grey-haired lady had by her side her daughter, 
a fresh young girl of eighteen, bubbling over with life, 
very happy, for she was going to meet at Dira-Dowa, 
the first night's stop, her fiancee, a young rubber 
planter. The other people who packed our compart- 
ment were a young Belgian assistant on a coffee planta- 
tion, dressed in "shorts," trying to be very English, but 
with a hatred of pioneer work which showed a contrary 
disposition, and a sunburned, voluble fellow whose wide 
sombrero and canvas shooting coat and flannel shirt 
made him the perfect picture of the sportsman adven- 
turer. He was a travelling salesman for a wine house. 
But he was an adventurer, after all, for his business 

Somaliland to Abyssinia 49 

took him to all parts of the world. He had sold liquors 
in the court of Siam, in Zanzibar, in Borneo — and here 
I quit writing down the names of the far places in my 
notebook so many of them did he mention — and in 
each he spent his leisure in big-game hunting. 

With rasy frankness of French bourgeois all this 
information came out in the first hour. 

1 ' But A I asked of the French lady at last, ' ' are there 
no travellers for pleasure who ever go to Abyssinia ?" 

' ' Travellers for pleasure to At ; 
and looked at the others. "Do you hear what he asks? 
i d, no, never!" 

"Never, never," chorused the adventurous drummer 
and young Belgian. 

"Well," thought I. 'This is a unique place. I 
thought that in th. '. ; .:: : - :.: -Av::ev-:r there 
was a railroad." 

The reason, i: seem s. that they have noissed Abys- 
sinia, a fascinating country despite my fall : w-travAiers' 
scorn, is that few people have heard of the railway. J : 
was only completed during the World War. Before 
then it took weeks of arduous travel by caravan to get 
from the coast to Addis-Abeba. The construction of 
this line is a little romance in itself. It came about 
this way: 

Forty years ago when Menelik II, the King of Shoa, 
gained the Emperor's throne, two young adventurers 
made their way t: Addis-Ate: a. One of these, a Swiss, 
Monsieur Igh gained the Entpertr's confidence by 
showing the newer c: Western civilization :hr:ugh 

50 The Sea Gypsy 

making for the monarch with his own hands a pair of 
shoes and a crude rifle ; the other, Monsieur Chenfieux, 
a Frenchman, had run in a caravan of rifles against 
what appeared to be insurmountable difficulties, to 
trade for the Emperor's ivory. These two adventurers 
became Menelik's foreign advisers. Here these two 
intelligent and ambitious young men found themselves 
the power behind the throne in a country of great po- 
tential but entirely undeveloped wealth, held back 
from developing that wealth chiefly because it had no 
outlet to the outside world. What more of an oppor- 
tunity could they want, these two young adventurers 
who dared to dream great dreams? Why, they would 
build a railroad and open up the Empire ! 

So they decided, though they had not a thousand 
dollars between them. And they wanted several mil- 
lion. First they got the Emperor to toss them off a con- 
cession, and with this paper, but no money, they went 
to Paris and got their millions. They saw themselves 
great and rich. Ah, well, they had their shot at great- 
ness anyhow, and for a little they basked in the sun- 
shine of glory. But only for a little. They had to 
build a town on the desert edge, for Jibuti had been 
nothing before; they had to fight their way along in 
many a battle against the Somalis and Danklies; and, 
worst of all they had to keep white men working in the 
tropical desert. And so when the railroad reached a 
third of the way they found themselves without money 
to go on ; and by now they had lost most of their share 
of the road in their dealings with the financiers. 

Somaliland to Abyssinia 51 

There, for many years, the road stopped; but when a 
group of British financiers tried to get control, the 
French Government, fearing a duplication of the Suez 
Canal affair, took practical control, and guaranteed the 
interest on the money to finish the road which was to 
open up a new Empire to the world. 

But what of the men — those young adventurers who 
dreamed that great dream so long ago? What of them, 
now? One of them is somewhere back in Switzerland, 
an old and bitter man, I was told, and the other I met 
in Addis-Abeba, a tired, broken old fellow with all his 
glory fallen from him. And yet, not quite all, for a 
young Abyssinian pointed him out to me one day with 
the words: "There is one of the few Europeans who 
have come among us and have remained honest." Not 
a bad epitaph to a broken career, that. 

We rode a day through the desert, stopping at wooden 
shacks called stations which were guarded by barefoot 
Abyssinian soldiers ("The books say these fellows aren't 
niggers, but they look like the same darky breed we 
have at home," said I to Taylor, on seeing these 
warriors. They surely were black enough.) and where 
wild Somalis armed with knives and spears grouped 
themselves about the trains and peered curiously at us. 
We rode a second day through the brush country and 
stopped that evening at a desert shack built in the 
wilderness. The third day we came into the highlands. 
Here game, deer and pheasant were abundant. We 

52 The Sea Gypsy 

could see them on both sides of the train scurrying 
away as we approached. In the late afternoon of that 
day we came near our journey's end. 

"You will see two men hanging on a gallows now," 
said the sombreroed wine drummer. 

The train rose over the crest of a hill, then started 
down a long winding grade. Taylor and I pressed to 
the window. Below us in a valley lay a small plateau 
covered by an eucalyptus tree forest. Not a house to 
be seen. 

"Addis-Abeba!" cried the liquor man. The town 
was lost in the forest. 

"Lord!" said Taylor. "We will never dare show 
photographs taken here. Everybody will swear they 
were made at Hollywood," for Hollywood is likewise 
shaded by eucalyptus trees. 

From high up in the surrounding mountains to the 
edge of the eucalyptus forest wound the long line of tiny 
figures. We could see camels loaded down with grain 
and hides ; mules and donkeys staggering under bundles 
of faggots; white-robed riders, gun barrels glistening in 
the sunshine, astride of mountain ponies ; black women 
and boys and men afoot driving flocks of sheep and 
goats — as far as we could see this endless chain of 
travellers twisted down from the mountain and was lost 
in the eucalyptus forest in the valley. Abyssinia was 
bringing in its weekly tithes to the capital of its 
Empress ! 

The train dipped around another turn. 

"Now look," cried our liquor-selling companion. 

Somaliland to Abyssinia 53 

We craned our necks out of the window and stared. 
At the turn of the road there stood, right enough, a 
gallows tree, dark and forbidding. But the tree was 
bare of fruit. There were no men hanging there. 

The wine salesman sighed with all the bitterness of a 
country hostess whose cook has just announced that a 
tramp has stolen the turkey of which she has been brag- 
ging to her guests. "I assure you, Messieurs, nine 
days out of ten you would see corpses rotting on that 
gallows," said our French friend with a sigh of disap- 
pointment; then added, "And the dogs jumping to 
tear off pieces of the flesh." He took his seat in disgust 
and refused to look out again. His day had been 
completely spoiled. 

The train approached close to the forest. Through 
the tall swaying trees we could see glimpses of thatched 
roofs and brown and white houses. On the very edge 
of the forest the train stopped. Nearby a group of 
wooden shacks was an excited crowd of half a thousand 
men, black and brown, all with guns swung over then- 
backs, most with long curved swords by their sides and 
mounted on mules or sturdy little horses. We had 
come to Addis-Abeba. And wonder upon wonders, 
here at the station of a nation's capital — not even a 
Ford ! 



"IT isn't real," I said to myself. "It's a dream — of 
living in an age long, long dead." 

I was sitting high up on a mountainside looking down 
on Addis-Abeba, the capital of Abyssinia, where we had 
arrived ten days before. My horse was munching grass 
near an old underground monastery, now the home of 
hyenas. The tropical sunlight beat down brilliantly 
through air that was so clear that each miniature house, 
each pigmy tree, each tiny figure below seemed not re- 
duced in size by their distance but normally thus small. 
Gloriously I gulped in the air that was wine, and gor- 
geously I visioned the fantastic dream-city below. 

If one could call it a city! There below were really 
five hundred villages scattered through a forest of a 
thousand stately eucalyptus trees. Through the forest 
wound brown roads on which I could see moving in- 
numerable groups of white dots. From most came 
the glitter of steel. These I knew to be noblemen 
on horseback and muleback, swords at their sides, their 
men-at-arms trotting along on foot behind them. The 


The Last of the Feudal Princes 57 

dots from which came no sunlit sparkle of metal were 
the peasant women walking, or the upper-class women 
riding astride of mules. I chuckled a little as I thought 
of them, for 1 knew, for all their dignity, that the big 
toes of their bare feet were stuck through narrow iron 

Far over to the side of the Forest City, I could make 
out the great market square, jammed with thousands of 
peasants bringing in their wood and grain and sheep 
and goats. Taylor and I had forced our horses through 
the crowd that morning. And in this market-place 
stood a gallows. And in front of the church of St. 
George was a great tree with far-spreading limbs. 
And from the gallows and from the tree on Satur- 
days were hauled up by the neck living men. And 
thus publicly on many a market-day, gallows and 
tree bore their ghastly fruit, that all men might 
know that the Son of Solomon still sat sternly in the 
Seat of Justice. 

Now far down to the left I could make out an open 
stretch of green where other sorts of executions were car- 
ried out. Here men were sabered or stabbed or clubbed 
or shot to death. These were murderers handed over 
to the members of the family of the man they had mur- 
dered to die by his kinsfolks' hands in exactly the same 
manner in which they had killed. And here also in- 
corrigible thieves had their right hands and left feet 
hacked off, and lay there moaning until their women 
carried them away. 

On the hills about the Forest City rose the roofs of 

58 The Sea Gypsy 

larger houses, the town places of country barons 
About these also moved the miniature white figures, 
for each such mansion was always kept with a full com- 
plement of servants and slaves waiting for the master 
when he rode in from his distant province to pay 
homage to the Empress and the Prince Regent. 

At my feet far away from the forest's edge lay four 
or five houses widely separated. Out of one came gal- 
loping a little cavalcade led by a man in European 
dress astride a big gray horse. Behind rode turbaned 
servants carrying lances from which fluttered bright 
pennons. This was one of the foreign ministers — no 
diplomatic figurehead here in Abyssinia, but a great 
lord carrying the dignity and power of his mighty 

And now I looked down along the edge of the forest 
and saw two groups of stone buildings stretching over 
many acres, each surrounded by walls within walls. 
The one nearest town was the gibbi, "palace" of the 
Prince Regent, who is the direct descendant of King 
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The second, closer 
to me, was the present home of Taylor and me, given 
us by the Prince. Then far to the left, I saw a still 
greater group of stone and mud buildings and walls, 
dominating all the Forest City. This was the Great 
Gibbi of the Queen of Kings of Abyssinia, the Empress, 
daughter of him who signed himself — "The Lion of 
Judah has conquered." In absolute possession over an 
empire six times as big as New England and inhabited 
by ten millions of people, she stretches her hand. 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 59 

The many roads leading to the Great Gibbi were 
thronged with riders and men on foot — nobles going to 
pay homage, the ten thousand men-at-arms who guard 
the Empress, the never-counted stewards and lackeys 
and black slaves who serve her royal home. And, as I 
looked, a great concourse of riders poured out from the 
main gate. And I knew that the riders were the Prince 
himself and his armed lords riding home with pomp and 
circumstance after their daily visit to the ''Queen of 

A dream — a vision — a memory of the Age of Kings ! 
"Yes, dreaming I must be." And, at last, I reached 
up and pinched my cheek. And jumped ! Yes, 1 was 
most surely awake. No dream this, but reality. I 
sprang to my feet, called my attendants, and rode down 
the mountainside to my palace below. 

I rode past the very entrance to the Great Gibbi of 
the Empress. Over one of the stone gates was a rude 
wooden floor, half decayed. On this were lolling half a 
dozen dirty black barelegged serfs and soldiers. I passed 
a noble. I knew him to be master of scores of vassals, 
with an estate as big as a county. Yet I remembered 
that his house was little better than a large hut of mud 
and thatch. I remembered that if I entered his dwelling, 
I would probably find his wife, mistress of many slaves, 
seated on a pile of straw, though in truth the straw 
would be covered with oriental rugs. Something was 
wrong with the magnificence of my vision. Close at 
hand, touches of barbarism everywhere seemed to dull 
the radiance of it all. 

60 The Sea Gypsy 

But then I thought : ''If I could really be transported 
back through the centuries to the Court of Arthur and 
his Knights of the Round Table, would I not find there, 
outside the palace wall, dirty serfs, and scavenger dogs? 
Would not the villages of old Wales also be made up of 
mud huts? By heaven!" I swore. "Now I under- 
stand squalor so close to regal power. Those story-book 
pictures, all gold and glamour and brillance, are false. 
As I see the Forest City, now, close up — power and 
pomp side by side with rude barbarism and poverty — 
why, there is the truth of the Age of Kings. Thus, in 
olden days, really lived the world." 

And then I thought also: "These people have al- 
lowed negro blood to come into the race. The tar 
brush is probably the real basic reason for this squalor." 

Our first dwelling in Addis-Abeba was the little inn, 
kept by a French ex-poilu. No one who can buy a 
horse or mule walks in Abyssinia, so on our first morn- 
ing we rented a couple of nags. The poilu innkeeper 
insisted that at least one boy accompany us as a groom 
and that a couple of others trot along on foot holding 
to our horses' tails. 

"You will understand, messieurs" he said, twirling 
his debonair black mustache, "it is impossible for a 
gentleman to ride unaccompanied here." 

Five miles or so we rode through the Forest City, 
until at last we came to the English Legation. It was 
a stone building, set against the side of a mountain and 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 61 

surrounded by native villages and spacious gardens. 
It was the most pretentious residence in all Abyssinia. 
Mr. Claude Russell, the British Minister, a lean man 
in his forties, very fit, a member of one of the great 
British families, received us. 

The British Minister was most courteous and cordial. 
He arranged our first audience with the Prince Regent. 
Mr. Zaphiro, the British oriental secretary, a remark- 
able man who had come out to Abyssinia as a chemist a 
score of years ago, and by sheer ability and courage as 
the agent of the British government along the wild 
Sudanese border had won the C. M. G., escorted us to 
the palace of the Prince. A stone wall perhaps a mile 
in circumference surrounded it. We came to the 
closed portals — riders, passing in and out, filled the main 
gate — and Zaphiro rapped on it with his riding crop. 
There within, on either side, were standing at attention 
two soldiers, dressed for all the world, except for their 
bare feet, like American doughboys. A hundred yards 
away was a one-storied stone house, with wide spacious 
steps. It looked like the country home of a prosper- 
ous New Yorker. "And this is the palace of a 
Barbarian King!" Taylor exclaimed. 

But I pointed to the left, where the gate to the inner 
wall stood open. In a great courtyard, on horse and 
muleback, were a hundred men in sweeping robes, 
armed with spears and long swords. Black slaves were 
running about. Bareheaded, stalwart men-at-arms were 
grouped about them. 

This was the true courtyard of the Son of Solomon. 

62 The Sea Gypsy 

The Prince's modern house was but a speck of civiliza- 
tion upon the broad surface of that wild empire. At 
the door to the palace a score of soldiers presented 
arms. A huge Abyssinian, his body draped in white 
cotton but with his left shoulder bare, swung open the 
door. We entered directly into a long room stretching 
the length of the building. For a second I thought it 
was empty, but only for a second ; then I saw on a sofa 
far down one side of the room a dark, silent figure, and 
I knew that this must be Ras Tafari, Prince of Abys- 

As we advanced, our footsteps soundless on rich 
oriental rugs, the Prince arose. Silent and dignified 
he stood, the sunlight sweeping in from two great win- 
dows illuminating every line and feature. A man of 
thirty, a slight, erect figure in a long black cloak, color- 
less but for a red collar. Black eyes set well apart; 
long dark lashes; a heavy black beard; a broad fore- 

As I looked, I remembered once more the legend that 
the rulers of Abyssinia were the descendants of Solomon, 
and I thought to myself that this man's face was re- 
markably like the pictures of Solomon in the story 

As we shook hands I saw that Ras Tafari 's hand 
was as little and fragile as a woman's. Yet I knew 
he could well wield a sabre, for he had led an army 
in hand-to-hand conflict when he had won his 

We sat down, Tafari upon his sofa, Taylor, Zaphiro 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 63 

and I on European chairs facing him. The Prince 
spoke in Abyssinian, Taylor and I in English, Zaphiro 
interpreted. In the many times thereafter when I 
talked with the Prince, we spoke directly with each 
other in French. I did not know how often I would see 
Ras Tafari again, so I fell to my trade, and plied him 
with the hundred questions of the journalist. His an- 
swers were calm and unhesitating. He spoke of his 

"Abyssinia is an empire made up of a num- 
ber of minor kingdoms and provinces," he said. 
"The supreme head of the government is the Em- 
press. She, the Crown of the Empire, owns all 
the land and has the power of life and death over 
every person in Abyssinia. Her word is the law. I, 
as Regent of the Empire, exercise these powers in 
her name." 

"And who is the head of the judicial system?" I 




"The army?" 

"I." An expected answer. 

And then Tafari smiled and said. "I know that to 
you the life here will seem incredibly strange. And I 
know that if this empire must continue to exist there 
are many things which must change." Then slowly, 
and balancing each word, he added: "Abyssinia must 
learn the ways of modern civilization. We must have 

64 The Sea Gypsy 

progress. And to gain this we must educate our people. 
That is my aim. With my private funds, I have built 
a modern school, soon to be opened. (The next day I 
saw the schoolhouse; it was well-equipped.) I am 
sending personally a number of young men to be edu- 
cated in Italy and France — and now there are three of 
my youths in your far-off America. I know it is only 
the beginning of progress. But progress will come. It 
must come." 

As he spoke these last words, Tafari's eyes had 
lighted with enthusiasm, and I think all three of us 
foreigners realized that here indeed was something 
greater than the gorgeous stories of the fairy-book. 
Here was a Prince, who in all his life had been but three 
days away from his dark kingdom, the war leader of a 
wild army, the judge who with a word sent men to be 
hung in public market squares, or to have their limbs 
hacked off, the owner of slaves, the ruler who by 
training and education was an absolute monarch — 
here was such a Prince fired by enthusiasm for liberal 

Afterwards I saw a figure of gold at the head of 
twenty thousand warriors. I saw twice twenty thou- 
sand people wild with religious enthusiasm as the 
high priest of lost Judah baptized him. I saw him pre- 
side over a banquet stranger than any dream of fiction. 
I saw him in all these strange r61es, yet never did I feel 
the same sense of wonder as when I heard him, the 
despot, cry out with real enthusiasm for liberality and 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 65 

One morning we were seated on the porch of the little 
inn, watching the caravans pass by, when a queer little 
cavalcade trotted up. At its head, mounted on a tiny 
stubborn mule, decked out in gay red harness and vel- 
vet saddle cloth, was a little gray-mustached man in a 
heavy suit of European clothes. Tipped far back on 
his head where it was of no use was an old-fashioned 
black derby. 

That derby, worn under the broiling African sun, 
fascinated Taylor and me. We tried not to stare 
as its wearer dismounted and entered the inn. A 
few minutes later he came out accompanied by the 
French inn keeper. They marched straight up to us. 
We rose. 

Monsieur Abraham, Keeper of the Private Purse 
of Prince Tafari," said the innkeeper. We all shook 
hands and sat down. 

Then said Monsieur Abraham in good French : ' ' His 
Highness has requested me to say that your palace is 
now ready for you to occupy." 

1 'Palace?" said Taylor, looking at me. " Palace?" 
said I, looking at him. "Urn," we said together. 

"Has the Prince given us a Palace?" Taylor 

Monsieur Abraham smiled. ''Yes," he answered. 
"I will send boys to take your baggage when you are 

The Keeper of the Prince's Purse proved to be one of 
our very real friends. He did for us every courtesy 

66 The Sea Gypsy 

and favor possible. One reason, no doubt, was that he 
was an Armenian long exiled from a home violated 
and burned by the Turks, and his family and 
friends had been helped by the American Relief. 
The next day, followed by a line of black slaves bear- 
ing our baggage, we rode over to our new home. We 
saw before us another one of those vast enclosures 
made up of circle within circle of stone walls within 
which lived whole villages of retainers. In the heart 
of this place rose a square stone tower. It was 
three stories high, with latticework verandas, and 
painted yellow. 

* ' Voila ! Your house, ' ' exclaimed Monsieur Abraham , 
pointing with his riding-crop at the yellow tower. We 
stared, amazed, for we saw the Prince had given us the 
former home of Lyg Yasu, the Ex-Emperor, whose own 
residence was now a prison, a hundred miles from Addis- 
Abeba, where he lives fastened wrist to wrist, day and 
night, by a silver chain to one of the relations of the 
present Prince. The entrance to the outer wall was 
in ruins, destroyed 1 think in the last revolution. 
In the outer court were tents and camels. At the 
second wall my horse shied violently, almost unseating 
me. Then he began shivering and refused to go on. 
Taylor's horse did likewise. " What's up?" I cried to 
Taylor. But Abraham's little mule kept straight on. 
Encouraged by vigorous blows, our horses followed 
gingerly. But, as we came through the opening, my 
horse shied again. No wonder. There, in wooden 
cages built against the wall, were four lions. 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 67 

Those were the guards of our palace gates. 

Abraham cocked his derby back still farther on his 
head, grinned at our astonishment, and led the way 
across a second courtyard, bordered with more native 
houses. We came up to a narrow white door in a high 
wall. Abraham rapped sharply and after a moment a 
black slave swung it open and bowed to the ground as 
we rode through. We found ourselves in a little land of 
our own. The high walls seemed to cut off all the out- 
side world of forest and primeval huts and boulder strewn 
trails. A straight gravelled path, bordered with flowers, 
clove through a green lawn to the entrance of our palace. 
On the porch of the palace awaiting us stood an Arab 
majordomo and his two aides, in picturesque regalia. 

We had come, at last, to our Abyssinian home. 

Our bedroom was on the top floor, sitting-room on 
the second and dining-room below. Off the sitting- 
room were two smaller rooms. Each had trap doors, 
leading to house dungeons. Taylor peered down. "I 
suppose here is where Lyg Yasu shoved down unruly 
ex-favorites to cool their hot heads." The walls of 
the dining-room were hung with pictures of the 
former cabinets of the Regent Prince, their members 
dressed in gorgeous silken robes, very pompous. We 
grinned, for all these gentlemen were now in prison 
or exiled. The Prince had abolished the whole lot with 
a single sweep of his hand. 


Early one morning when Taylor and I were standing 
on the balcony outside our bedroom, drinking in the 

68 The Sea Gypsy 

fresh morning air, we saw the Keeper of the Prince's 
Private Purse, Monsieur Abraham, ride in on his 

"Good morning, monsieur" I called down. 

He looked up, smiled and waved his riding-crop 
jauntily. "Ah, messieurs, you sleep late. The Prince 
sits at meat with his bodyguard today. He invites 
you to join him." 

In ten minutes we were on horseback. Never have I 
felt more gloriously alive. The air was nectar ; the road 
a picture out of a romance. We passed great nobles 
followed by hundreds of knights, squires and men-at- 
arms; lepers, creditors, plodding along with their un- 
happy debtors chained to them; white-robed women 
on muleback; wayside musicians trilling on flutes. It 
was a perfect scene from the Middle Ages. Taylor 
was singing : 

"For I've got the big brunette, 
I've got the coy coquette; 
I've got the ladies big and small, 
And that's not all." 

He stopped his song with a laugh as we turned into 
the outer court of the palace. This was jammed 
with thousands of warriors — bareheaded, barefooted 
fellows, wearing wide cartridge-belts and dressed in 
loose white robes. As the gate to the inner court 
was swung open to admit us, the mob made a rush 
forward to get in. Like magic appeared a dozen 
chamberlains, armed with long staves. Whack! 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 69 

Whack! Whack! Right and left they struck on the 
heads and shoulders of the hungry soldiers, who beat a 
retreat, while their fellows behind guffawed. 

We entered the court and saw before us a great one- 
storied building painted dark red. A chamberlain 
opened the wide doors, and we found ourselves in a vast, 
high-roofed hall. On its floor of hard-packed earth were 
set long tables, each capable of accommodating a hun- 
dred or so men, and far away at one end of the great 
hall was a raised platform, hidden by a white curtain 
hanging from the roof. From behind this curtain came 
the murmur of many voices. We knew that there we 
should find the Abyssinian noblemen. They always 
eat behind such a curtain ; for it protects them from the 
evil eye. The chamberlain led us up some steps and 
swung back the corner of the drapery. 

The place was like a stage, and like a gorgeous stage- 
setting was the scene. The floor was covered with 
multicolored rugs, and seated cross-legged on these 
were crowded together little groups of men, dressed 
in the togas of the nobles of the empire. In the very 
center of all, covered with a silken purple canopy and 
surrounded by young men in long robes of blue and 
green, was a great throne. 

On the throne, still as a statue, sat the Prince Regent. 
He seemed unmindful of the noise about him, and was 
staring straight ahead, a far-away look in his eyes. But 
as we advanced toward him, he smiled and said, in slow, 
even French, ' ' I hope you will dine with my soldiers and 

70 The Sea Gypsy 

He raised one hand in the slightest of gestures. A 
courtier bent before him. At a sharp order slaves 
appeared, bearing two chairs and a little table. We 
sat down beside the throne. 

Strange dishes, burning hot with pepper, were placed 
before us. We, as did the Abyssinians, ate of them 
with our ringers and washed down the stuff with a 
fiery white liquid, which looked and tasted like Russian 
vodka. This was served in drinking-bottles shaped 
like small carafes. Then, though it was ten o'clock 
in the morning, the slaves began to bring in a steady 
stream of bottles of French champagne. At the feast 
that was the only thing from the outside world. Cham- 
pagne is the greatest sign of the hospitality of an Abys- 
sinian lord. No matter when you visit him, be it at 
the hour for breakfast or luncheon or in the afternoon, 
the first thing you know a bowing slave will come pat- 
tering in with champagne. 

While the nobles ate and drank, the Prince fell again 
into his air of meditation. We finished eating, and still 
more bottles of champagne were brought to the nobles 
and to us. Then the curtain was drawn back. The 
dignified Head Chamberlain raised his wand. At the 
sign the big doors at the far-away end of the vast and 
empty hall were swung open, and in poured full five 
thousand warriors. 

Soon I began to stare with wide-eyed amazement. 
From both sides of the hall marched in processions of 
slaves, two by two. Each pair carried between them 
the carcass of a bullock, swung from a pole resting on 

Ras Tafari in Court Costume 

The Last of the Feudal Princes 73 

their shoulders. And the meat was fresh-killed and 
smoking and absolutely raw. Red, bloody, raw meat ! 

As the slaves passed between the tables, every war- 
rior, with a guttural exclamation of delight, whipped 
out his knife, grasped the nearest portion of the flesh of 
the bullock between his teeth and, with a sharp upward 
cut, slashed off the hunk of raw meat into which he had 
bitten. It seemed that many of the men would slice 
off the tips of their noses with the meat, but all had the 
dexterity of long practice, and just before the blade 
reached the nose, jerked loose the flesh with a com- 
bined movement of knife and teeth. 

"Has it been cooked at all?" I questioned Monsieur 

" Killed just a half -hour ago," he whispered back. 
1 ' The rawer the better. Raw flesh makes strong hearts 
for war, they say." 

More champagne — and more — and more. Down 
the hall now came minstrels, singing songs of war and 
the hunt; then musicians playing on flute and harp. 

While the musicians played, slaves passed among the 
soldiers, bearing bullock-horns filled with potent liquors. 
And for us and the nobles, yet again champagne. The 
sound of revelry grew higher. The five thousand war- 
riors gnawed at the raw and smoking flesh, drank deep 
of the fiery liquor and shouted hoarse orders at the 
slaves. Loud sang the minstrels ; shrill rose the melody 
of the flutes; deep boomed the drums of war. 

But the silent figure on the great purple-covered 
throne nsver moved. 

74 The Sea Gypsy 

And more champagne. 

"If we don't want to be carried out, we had better 
go — quick!" I muttered in Taylor's ear. We got up 
and, a little unsteadily, I am afraid, moved toward 
the Prince. He woke from his reverie to say good-by. 

Outside we saw thousands of other soldiers, waiting 
their turn to enter. And, as we walked to our horses, 
Monsieur Abraham said: "The warriors eat in five re- 
lays. A hundred and fifty bullocks are killed for the 
dinner. It costs the Prince two thousand dollars and 
does not end until late." 

But I, when I was galloping home, thought not at 
all of that strange banquet, but of the lonely ruler, 
sitting there on his purple throne in the midst of his 
shouting warriors. 



'X'AYLOR and I slowed our horses to a walk. Before 
us lay the Great Gibbi of the Empress, a vast if 
enclosure covering the whole top of the low hill which 
dominates Addis- Abeba, where we had been told she 
lived surrounded by ten thousand soldiers, attendants 
and slaves. Tafari had arranged an audience for us 
with her that morning. 

As we rode up to the gate of the outer wall it was 
flung open; and we rode in past a tower pierced with 
loopholes for rifle fire. We found ourselves on a steep 
walled road, along which lounged half -naked children, 
gossiping women, and rough soldiers. Loud shouts rang 
out, and warders rushed down the path showering blows on 
the idlers. Half a minute — presto ! — the road was empty. 

We dismounted, threw our reins to our grooms and 
walked on, Bakalaw, our official escort, a tall young 
protege of the Regent, beside us. From around every 
corner peeped staring faces. I wondered what they 
thought of us, and grinned. I knew that they were 
accustomed to see foreign ministers pass a-glitter with 
the gold lace and decorations of official dress. But we 


76 The Sea Gypsy 

were differently clad — far differently. As I thought of 
our appearance I remembered a tale of how Prince 
Henri of Orleans had come, dressed in shooting clothes, 
to pay his respects to a former Abyssinian Emperor. 
The Emperor had looked him over haughtily, then 
turned to a near-by favorite and said: "Who is this 
man who does not know how to appear before a king? " 
And I also recalled how an official at Jibuti in French 
Somaliland had told me : " If you have an audience with 
the Empress, be sure to wear a frock coat. No foreigner 
is ever admitted unless so dressed or in uniform." 

Well, I had no frock coat, nor indeed any kind of 
coat but an old brown Norfolk jacket, and the rest 
of my dress was even more shabby: worn square-toed 
army shoes; travel-stained spiral puttees; green Ger- 
man-officer's riding breeches (borrowed from Andy, 
on the Wisdom) ; a soft shirt ; ancient black tie ; and a 
cheap Italian felt hat. Taylor was a little more respec- 
table, but not greatly so. 

We entered the gate to the inner wall and marched 
along one of the labyrinthian paths through a maze 
of strangely assorted stone buildings, ranging from a 
rather savage magnificence to primaeval simplicity. 
Along the paths lounged groups of courtiers — big men 
for the most part, in the embroidered edged togas of 
nobles of the Empire, barefooted and bareheaded. 
From the nearest group, two, who held the long staffs 
of Court Chamberlains, stepped forward and bowed. 

A few words with Bakalaw, and they led us up a path 
toward the greater mansions above. Soon Taylor 

At the Wheel of the "Wisdom" 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 79 

nudged me. ''Look below," he said. I peered down 
to the next terrace level and saw there wooden cages 
filled with grown lions, and in the open, held by slaves 
on leashes, like so many pet dogs, a half dozen lion 
cubs. The lion is the national emblem of Abyssinia, 
and Menelik signed himself, "The Lion of Judah has 
conquered." Therefore the royal beasts are the pets of 
the Imperial Court. 

The Chamberlain led us to a high terrace where he 
motioned us to enter a small building of stone, aloft 
and alone like a statue on a pedestal. It had only three 
walls, as the entire front had purposely been left open. 
We entered and sat down on chairs placed so as to face 
toward the open side and looked down over part of the 
Palace Grounds and the Forest City. 

The Chamberlains left us. 

Below we watched the life of the Court — a minstrel 
twanged at his harp and sang to a group of broad- 
belted men-at-arms. Black slaves hurried to and fro 
loaded down with bundles of faggots and platters 
piled high with strange foods; a score more stumbled 
along bearing on poles the carcases of fresh killed 
bullocks to be eaten raw by the soldiers, and half a 
dozen full-bosomed, broad-hipped girls were giggling 
near the entrance to a great timbered hall where ten 
thousand warriors of the Guard were weekly feasted 
by Zaoditou ! Haughtily ignorant of these lower beings, 
the pompous (and for the most part, very black) digni- 
taries of the Court strolled by. 

As we watched, the Chamberlains returned and 

80 The Sea Gypsy 

motioned us to follow. We passed a stone edifice, stand- 
ing high above the other buildings. 

"The Great Hall of the Empress," Bakalaw whis- 
pered, visibly awed, though in truth by civilized stand- 
ards it was no great building. 

I had heard about the receptions which Zaoditou 
held there for official envoys. One entered and saw 
far down the high ceiling of audience room, on a splen- 
did dais, a great throne, surrounded by a thousand 
(so we were told) officials, robed in silks and satins and 
velvets and the skins of leopards and lions, all inter- 
woven with designs in golden thread. I was sorry to 
miss seeing all that, but our audience was not an affair 
of State — but informal. 

We went through an open passageway, and came 
out on to a stone platform, on one corner of which 
stood a tower. Around the outside of the tower wound 
a flight of steps. Up these the Chamberlains led us. 
At the top we came to a doorway hung with curtains. 
Our escorts threw these aside and we entered. Within 
the light was shadowy, almost dim, and coming thus 
suddenly from the brilliant sunlight, we could see but 
darkly. For a second we stood motionless in the door- 
way. Then, as our eyes became accustomed to the 
change of light, we saw, like a landscape rising at dawn 
out of the dusky night, a bizarre scene. 

A circular room covered with carpets and hung with 
velvet draperies — outlined against this dark background 
and standing against the wall a dozen barefooted, bare- 
headed men dressed in loose, white robes, draped over 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 81 

one shoulder, who if not negroes, were certainly black 
enough to have been so. In the middle, upon a throne, 
strewn with gorgeous embroideries, sat what looked like 
a little bundle of white gauze. Then I perceived, look- 
ing out from the top of this queer bundle, two brown 
eyes. And above the eyes rested a golden crown. 

It was the Empress. She was a pigmy. 

I advanced toward her and she lowered her veil reveal- 
ing a diminutive round solemn countenance. Her eyes 
seemed to look me over curiously, as she extended a gauze- 
covered hand. It was as small and fragile as a baby's. 
No one vouchsafed an introduction, so, breaking the pro- 
found silence, I murmured a few words of greeting, Taylor 
following my example. Then one of the Ministers, a lean, 
tall fellow, motioned us to two chairs facing the Empress. 
As I took my seat, I saw Tafari sitting alone at one side 
of the circular room, dignified and inscrutable. 

We had been informed that this presentation would 
be all, but, to our surprise, the tiny Empress, using as 
interpreter the tall courtier who spoke French, began 
to ask us questions in a soft rustling voice, often paus- 
ing for several minutes to think out her questions. She 
had been told, it seemed, that we were voyaging about 
the world in a yacht. For a little while she made, what 
seemed naturally curious, inquiries about our trip. 
But gradually she adopted a particular line of thought. 
It had to do with the independence of Eastern countries. 

We soon began to see what interested her so much 
and the reason. Abyssinia fears above all the imperial- 
istic ambitions of foreign powers. Her people know 


The Sea Gypsy 

that every other part of Africa, except Liberia, which 
unfortunately America keeps free, had been conquered 
by Europe. So now Abyssinians suspect the Western 

"And how many countries in all have you visited?" 
the miniature sovereign asked at last. 

Taylor and I consulted. The Wisdom had, in fact, 
visited twenty-three groups of islands in its voyage 
through the South Seas, Dutch Indies and up to Somali- 

This we told the little Empress, sitting there on her 

She thought a minute. "Are any of these countries 
independent?" she asked. We consulted together 
again. We had never thought of the matter in that 
light before. But no — it was a fact, not a single one 
was independent; and for my part I think that the 
black and yellow and brown races are all better off 
when dominated by white men. Yes, we said, Abys- 
sinia was the very first free nation we had touched. 

When we told the Empress this she seemed lost in 
deep reflection, then, after a long pause asked: "Who 
owns these colonies?" 

"England — France — America — Holland," I replied. 

This mention of specific names seemed to crystallize 
a thought in the mind of the tiny sovereign. She said: 
"Our Father, the Emperor Menelik, reunited and held 
the Empire against all enemies. We also will keep our 
country independent. We have no fear." 

All this was through an interpreter, and since then I 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 83 

have often wondered how much this woman ruler 
actually said and how many words and thoughts her 
secretary-interpreter conceived for her. 

For an hour or more after this we talked on trivial 
subjects and then paid our adieus. As we rode home 
I let my bridle reins lie idle on my horse's neck, as I 
reviewed the history of how Zaoditou had gained the 
throne, for, though she was the only living child of the 
former Emperor Menelik, when this powerful Monarch 
died in 1 91 3 he left the sceptre, not to her but to his grand- 
son, Lyg Yasu. A youth of 17 this Lyg Yasu — a daring 
horseman and hunter, skilled with sword and spear and 
rifle, he seemed the ideal leader of a warrior race. Nor 
did his people love him less because of his savage blood- 
lusts and mad affairs of gallantry with women. That 
was the way of a true king with women — they said. 

But as the young ruler grew into manhood, strange 
rumours crept about. He was dismissing his Christian 
servants, and gathering only Mohammedans about 
him. And then, at last, came the word, whispered in 
awe and anger — that the Emperor was secretly attend- 
ing a Mohammedan mosque. Now this was some- 
thing beyond the pale, for Abyssinia is a Christian 
Empire. Its whole history during a thousand years 
is that of the conflict of a lonely Christian Kingdom 
against the surrounding hordes of Islam. And now, 
from all over the land, rose threateningly the loud 
muttering of the Christian leaders. The discontent 

8 4 

The Sea Gypsy 

grew and grew until the subdued mutterings of the 
Christian Chiefs swelled to a chorus of defiant protest. 

But the young despot minded this opposition not at 
all. He was dreaming a great dream. He would pro- 
claim himself the new Mullah of the Mohammedan 
World, convert his Empire to the religion of the Prophet 
and, after, lead his quarter of a million fighting men as 
the vanguard of a host with which to conquer all Africa 
and form it into one great Islamic Empire. 

This in 191 6, when the Western World was locked in 
a death grapple on the Fields of Flanders, and the time 
was ripe for such desperate action. 

Boldly the young Warrior King made his attempt. 
Swiftly he gathered an army of Mohammedans and 
marched on his own Capital. But he had underesti- 
mated the power of Christianity. Not for nothing had 
Abyssinia held to the Faith through centuries of re- 
ligious warfare. The great Christian Princes and 
Dukes met at Addis-Abeba in solemn conclave. To 
the head of the Assembly stepped a youthful lord in his 
middle twenties — Tafari, the Prince of Harrar. 

He had a plan, he said. Would his brother peers 
listen to his words? The Council Chamber grew silent. 
To meet war with war, was the only hope, Tafari told 
the elder nobles as they sat cross-legged on cushions 
about the Room of Talk. Act without fear, he said. 
Have the Archbishop excommunicate this false Em- 
peror, declare that the Crown of the Cross of Christ be 
torn from Yasu's head — then choose a new ruler and 
out to meet the traitor with the sword. As one man 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 85 

the Princes of the Empire agreed — and far and above his 
fellows stood Tafari as the choice for the new Emperor. 

But Tafari was wise. He knew the force of Menelik's 
name, and Lyg Yasu was Menelik's grandson. "No," 
he said. "We must rally our people in the name of our 
great dead Emperor; and there is living among us 
Zaoditou, Menelik's daughter. We will proclaim her 
Empress and, if it be your will, I will rule in her name 
as Regent and, after her death, inherit the throne." 

Thus Tafari made Zaoditou, Menelik's childless 
and middle-aged daughter, Empress of Abyssinia, 
but retained the actual rule in his own hands. In 
Zaoditou 's name he went forth to meet the excom- 
municated Emperor and, twice beat the Mohammed- 
ans to the earth, driving Lyg Yasu into the desert 
with a handful of followers. For four years Yasu 
wandered there until, at last, broken by thirst and 
hunger and hardship, he rode back into captivity. 
Now he sits in a palace, miles from Addis- Abeba, 
living in luxury with his slaves and women — but a 
prisoner for all that, fastened, it is said, by silver chains 
to a close kinsman of the Prince Tafari. He has grown 
fat and ugly, men say, and drinks and eats night and 
day, ever striving to forget the time when he would 
have united all Africa under his iron fist, for the faith 
of the Prophet. 

When my father was a young man, living in what 
was then the sleepy little town of Jacksonville in 

86 The Sea Gypsy 

Florida, an old Confederate Officer came back one day 
from 7ears of wandering. He had been serving in the 
Army of the Khedive in Egypt, and he had a tale to 
tell. The Khedive had had ambitions to extend the 
frontiers of Egypt to Lakes Victoria and Albert Nyanza, 
with a coast line running from Suez to Zanzibar. To 
accomplish this he had raised an army equipped with 
modern weapons and trained by veteran foreign officers 
including a number of leaders of the "Lost Cause" of 
the Confederacy. This army, some fifteen thousand 
strong, had marched south into Abyssinia on a march 
of conquest. 

"That was the last of the Khedive's army," the old 
Colonel told my father. "The Abyssinians almost 
annihilated our entire force. I've fought against 
Apaches and Mexicans and Yankees — damn 'em — but 
for sheer pluck and fighting ability, believe me, young 
man, the Abyssinian is as good a soldier as any of 'em." 

Twenty years later, in 1896, the Western World 
heard news which confirmed the opinion of this old 
Confederate. During the height of the period of 
Colonial expansion in Africa, the Italians had marched 
into Abyssinia from the coast with an army of twenty- 
two thousand men, one of the largest forces ever 
organized to conquer a supposedly savage country. 
Then, as if from out of the earth, the Emperor Menelik 
had thrown himself upon the advancing Italians with 
near a hundred thousand warriors. The white army 
was almost completely destroyed. It was the most 
crushing defeat a European Force has ever received at 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 87 

the hands of natives. The prestige of Italy in Africa 
has never recovered from it. And since then no Euro- 
pean power has undertaken the conquest of Abyssinia. 

Now I know these facts about the fighting qualities 
of the Abyssinian soldier, and was therefore anxious to 
see them in action. With this in mind I rode to Prince 
Tafari's house one day and asked him to let us visit 
any parts of Abyssinia where righting was going on; 
but he answered that the Empire was at peace and that 
but for a little guerilla skirmishing among the wild 
tribes, there was no war to see. 

"Then," said I, "would it be possible to witness a 
part of your army in war manoeuvres?" 

"Why, yes," the Prince calmly replied. "Would 
early to-morrow morning please you?" 

I looked at him in astonishment. How in the world 
was he going to gather an army in one day? But I 

1 ' Good, ' ' said Taf ari. ' ' I will be out on the plain with 
my men at seven o'clock." He designated a great field 
which lay not far distant from the Palace. 

When I returned to our Palace there was consider- 
able if somewhat sceptical elation. Some days before 
Captain Salisbury had come up to join us from Jibuti 
in French Somaliland, accompanied by a "Shorty" 
Schoedsack, a very remarkable motion picture operator, 
and an old friend of mine from days in Poland. Cap- 
tain Salisbury had been forced to return owing to ill- 
health, but Schoedsack had remained. Here was a 
chance for a wonderful picture, if any army really did 

88 The Sea Gypsy 

appear. But where was the army to come from? We 
had seen the numerous guards of the Palaces, and we 
had seen the roads through and about Addis-Abeba 
swarming with the gentry and their followers carrying 
swords and rifles; but these did not make an army. 
Nevertheless, that night Taylor, together with half 
a dozen servants, built a platform thirty feet high, 
from which Schoedsack might take motion pictures. 

The next morning at daybreak, we were awakened 
by Monsieur Abraham and an old resident of Addis- 
Abeba. The lions at our Palace gate, as if scenting 
some unusual event, were roaring lustily. The very air 
tingled with excitement. 

"Well, is there really going to be an army?" Taylor 
asked, as we hopped out of bed and began to throw on 
our clothes. 

"Of course," said the man who had lived long in 
Abyssinia. "All night long couriers have been riding 
to the outlying lords." 

Still, we did not understand. Then our acquaintance 
explained. "It's this way, ' ' he said. ' ' The army which 
you will see to-day is, like all feudal armies, made up in 
great part, of the nobles and their personal followers. 
You remember how, in England and in France, during the 
Middle Ages, all the gentry kept their own retainers, and 
you will recall how they battled against each other, and 
even, secure in their own strongholds, defied the King. 
Well, that was the state of affairs in Abyssinia when 
Menelik came to the throne. Menelik immediately 
began strengthening the power of the Crown, and one 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 89 

of his best schemes was to order each year a number of 
the nobles from distant provinces to the capital. When 
they came, of course they brought with them a large 
following of their vassals who, in return, brought their 
men-at-arms. By this stratagem the Emperor always 
had a preponderating force at Addis-Abeda, which was 
ready to march instantly against any rebellious chief. 
Prince Tafari has followed out this plan. To-day 
nearly every provincial ruler has a town house in or 
near Addis-Abeba, and there he lives when ordered to 
the Capital. These nobles now on duty here, together 
with their retainers, as well as the body-guards of the 
Empress and Regent make up the army you will see 

After breakfast we galloped out on the plain and set 
about marking off a location with flags, within which 
we hoped to mask a part of the troops for a charge. 
We had just finished our work when Schoedsack 
stretched his six-feet-five of brawn and muscle to its 
uttermost and peered into the distance. 

"Look, look, there they come!" he shouted down. 

We looked, and far up on the hills we could see the 
gleam and glitter of sun on steel. 

"And there," Shorty called, "and there," pointing in 
still a third direction. 

From every side armed men were pouring down on 
the city. 

Half an hour more, and then up the other end of the 
plain, there came riding a shining array of horsemen, 
followed by a mass of men on foot. And then another 

90 The Sea Gypsy 

company — and another. And still another — and yet 
on they came. It seemed as if the stream of warriors 
was endless. 

As I rode forward to where the troops were massing, 
my eyes were literally dazzled. From a distance it had 
seemed a myriad of prismatic colors and glaring metals 
upon a background of white and green and brown ; but 
as I rode closer, the blurred outlines sharpened. 

Over the end of the great field I could now see scat- 
tered companies of warriors gorgeous beyond any 
stretch of the imagination. Far down the plain, by 
the hundreds, stretched these bands. And in the center 
or before each detachment there sat proudly on horse- 
back, surrounded by his mounted minor chieftains, the 
Over-Lord who was master of the force. 

As I approached within fifty yards of the nearest 
mass, suddenly there broke forth from it a score of 
mounted men. They came galloping straight at me. 
Like flames sweeping across a burning prairie they 
rode, and like flames they sparkled with vivid lights 
and colors as the sun beat down on their accoutre- 

At their head, riding with as mad and careless 
abandon as the youngest of his warriors, sped an old 
Detzmarch (General). Directly in front of me he 
jerked his fiery little horse, caparisoned from head to 
knees in vermilion silk, back on its haunches; then 
brandished in greeting two long spears he carried in his 
right hand, and swung to the ground. 

Like one man his followers dismounted behind him. 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 93 

I jumped from my horse. The Detzmarch and I 
shook hands. But I could scarcely return his courteous 
inquiries, I was so amazed. He was truly a magnificent 
if somewhat gaudy sight. A head dress of lions' manes 
quivered as he bowed. A long robe of Tyrian purple 
silk rustled against his ankles when he stepped forward ; 
and as he talked, he flung back a cloak of leopard skins, 
exposing a stole of saffron velvet. He had handed his 
spears to one of his squires, but on one arm he still 
carried a round shield made of buffalo hides with an 
outer layer of dark crimson leather, almost concealed 
by heavy gold filigree studded with imitation gems. 
By his side swung a long curved scimitar with a pommel 
of rhinoceros hide m a silver and red velvet scabbard, 
while the saddle, bridle, and other accoutrements of 
his silk-covered horse, were embossed with precious 

Behind him stood his feudatories scarcely less color- 
ful than their Chieftain. We rode back together to 
where his five or six hundred men-at-arms were leaning 
on their rifles and spears. They were carrying bucklers, 
slings and swords, and wearing white tunics which 
dropped to their knees. Among these warriors there 
stood in little groups, talking quietly, the Captains of 
Tens, old soldiers, dressed in gay finery — bright silk 
kerchiefs wound about their heads, coats of wild animal 
skins, embroidered belts, and the like. 

Then, as I rode slowly further down the lines, I saw 
that every peer and his men presented a like appear- 

94 The Sea Gypsy 

And still from every side warlike parties poured down 
from the hills. 

I thought it impossible for this wild array ever to 
form in military order ; but even as this thought flashed 
through my mind, I heard the blare of trumpets and the 
booming of war drums ; and away in the distance from 
the palace gates of Prince Tafari a mass of men poured 

I whirled my horse about and galloped down the 
plain to tell Schoedsack to prepare — the show was 

Then somehow — out of that huge mob, perhaps fif- 
teen thousand strong — a column emerged, and began 
to move down the field in orderly military precision. 

The column drew closer. At the head rode a hundred 
glittering chiefs in rows of twenty, shaking their spears 
but holding with ease their cavorting horses, which 
were mad with the lust of battle. On their heels a score 
of men, dressed from head to foot in dark red, balanced 
on their horses' backs great drums of buffalo hide, 
which they pounded with the deep cadence of the 
defiance to combat. Among the drummers, also on 
horseback, rode white-robed minstrels, singing the wild 
chants of the onslaught. Then the Detzmarch swept 
by, surrounded by his glittering staff. After them fifty 
abreast swung the lines of fierce warriors on foot, their 
black faces savage as they listened to the sound of the 
war drums ahead. Their hoarse battle-cries rose across 
the plain: "Together, together — Slay, slay — God par- 
don us, Christ!" 

Guardians of the Lion of Judah 95 

And ever came the deep war chants of the minstrels. 
M Brothers, are you hungry, are you thirsty? Are ye 
not birds of prey ? Forward ! Behold the flesh of your 

" And I will be a carver at your feast. Forward! If 
ye lack wine I will give you blood to drink!" 

Hour after hour they came, these serried ranks on 
horse and foot. It seemed as if they would never cease, 
for ever reinforcements were sweeping onto the plain. 

And then, at last, from far away, we heard again the 
call of many trumpets. And we saw in the distance 
what appeared to be a moving spot of golden light — 
solid gold it looked from where we watched — followed 
by a mass of glittering spears. 

Nearer and nearer they came. The specks enlarged 
into a thousand magnificent horsemen, surpassing any- 
thing we had seen in barbaric riot of color and arms. 
And the solid moving spot of gold dissolved into a figure 
of man and horse. The horse was coal-black, tar-black, 
pitch-black, blacker than any simile I can find to 
describe it. The man was covered with a cloak of 
ebon velvet, the very saddle he rode was black. But 
this blackness was only a background ; viewed close at 
hand, every inch of it showed to be covered with 
golden motes, innumerable and uncountable, which 
seemed to dance like live things at every movement 
of the great beast. 

Then the golden rider passed directly in front of us. 
And we saw a man of thirty — his countenance grave 
and serene. Gold was the crown upon his head; his 

96 The Sea Gypsy 

sable cloak was covered with spangles of gold and 
closely woven figures in gold thread; his belt was a 
band of golden links in which sparkled a hundred gems ; 
the hilt of his sword was gold, encrusted with precious 
stones ; gold was the scimitar's scabbard ; gold were the 
embroideries on the black trappings of his black horse. 

Man and horse formed a vision of black and gold — 
gold — gold. 

It was Tafari, Regent of Abyssinia, riding at the head 
of the leaders of the Empire. 

Taylor and I sat our horses, frozen in sheer wonder. 
But from far above us, we heard Schoedsack's voice : 

' ' Blankety , blank, blank ! " he yelled. "HI only had 
a dozen cameras now!" 

With the passing of the Prince the review of the 
Army of Abyssinia ended. And while we went in to 
have a drink with him, the plain was flooded by the 
huge mob of warriors who cheered their champions at 
the jousting. So ended a most remarkable day in that 
most strange kingdom in the mountains of Africa. 

Said Shorty as we rode home that evening: "I'll bet 
the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court never 
cast his peepers on anything half as wonderful as the 
show we've seen to-day.* ' 


"as in solomon's day" 

"VV/E devote millions to the uncovering of ancient 
cities dead, and we neglect an ancient civiliza- 
tion, living, a civilization which found its inspiration in 
Solomon's Court, and which, preserving its Christian 
faith through 1,600 years, and during many centuries 
cut off from all contact with the outside world, hands 
itself down to us in all essential respects identical 
with that which prevailed in Bethlehem 2,000 years 

From the writings on Abyssinia of Mr. Robert P. 
Skinner, American Consul General in London, who led 
the first and only American governmental expedition to 
the Court of Abyssinia. 


The great field which lies near the palace of the Prince 
Regent was jammed with white-robed figures, perhaps 
forty thousand. At one end of the plain, holding a 
light rifle across his knees, sat Tafari on a high chair 
covered with silken draperies and placed on a dark 
red carpet. At his feet, on a purple cushion, sat the 
King of Tigre, holding likewise across his knees a rifle, 


98 The Sea Gypsy 

but his was all inlaid with silver. An attendant held a 
huge fringed silk parasol over the Prince; and behind 
him stood a score of Chieftains and Chamberlains, all 
armed with rifles and swords. The Prince wore a felt 
hat, which rose to a high peak and had a brim which 
spread out in an enormous drooping circle. All other 
Abyssinians were uncovered. 

Seated to one side of the monarch were the members 
of the diplomatic corps, and Taylor and I — two Ameri- 
cans. There were Major Dodds, British Consul, and 
his wife, Lady Annabelle Dodds, the daughter of the 
Marquis of Crewe, British Ambassador to Paris; 
Monsieur and Madame Boccarin, of the French Lega- 
tion; the Italian Charge d' Affaires; Monsieur Pierre 
Elypes, former Governor of Reunion Island; Count 
Bellefont, the Conseil d'Etat of Abyssinia, and his 
young wife, and half a dozen others. 

Before the Prince a wide space had been cleared, and 
from this the mob was being held back by a company 
of the bodyguard. Straight across this clearing and 
facing Tafari were half a dozen of the strangest- 
appearing figures I have ever seen. On their heads 
they wore what looked like the upper frames of big 
boxes. These frames were covered with hangings of 
multi-colored silks, which dropped down like robes 
about the silent figures. 

"Those are the Chief Priests. Their costumes are 
supposed to be replicas of those of the High Priests of 
Solomon's Court," the Englishman sitting beside me 

" As in Solomon's Day " 99 

As he spoke, from each side of the open space 
advanced thirty lower Priests, wearing white turbans 
and carrying long staffs. At the end of each line 
of the Holy Men walked young clerks beating on 
huge drums, which they bore on slings about their 
necks. Slowly the drums began to boom, and to their 
solemn cadence the Priests began a swaying, rhythmic 
dance, their high-pitched voices chanting the Psalms of 

The bearded monarch, the attendant courtiers, and 
the forty thousand watchers — except for that little 
group of Europeans, and for the rifles which nearly 
every man of the assemblage had swung across 
his shoulder, and for the black faces of the mob, 
it might have been a scene of thousands of years 
ago with the High Priests of Judah dancing before 

As I watched, my mind went back to the famous tra- 
dition on which this Empire rested. I remembered that 
no ruler could sit on the throne of Abyssinia who was 
not supposed to bear in his veins the blood of King 
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And I recalled, then, 
the day, a month before, when I had first heard of this 

It was in Jibuti, the sun-baked huddle of houses on 
the Red Sea whence we had come up to Abyssinia. 
Billings, the lone Englishman there, had introduced me to 
a full-bodied, bald-headed man of forty, named Mayer. 
Mayer was the son of a German, who had pene- 
trated Abyssinia many years before, and of an Abys- 


The Sea Gypsy 

sinian noblewoman. When I met him, he was en route 
to Europe. He was taking with him one of the two 
existing copies, so he said, of the Sacred Book of Abys- 
sinia. This is the Book of Makeda, whom we know as 
the Queen of Sheba, and of King Solomon. 

It tells of the meeting of this royal pair; of Makeda' s 
seduction by the glorious monarch of Israel, of the 
birth of their son, Menelik I, from whom the Emperors 
of Abyssinia are directly descended. 

The book is a great tome, written in Gheze, the 
ancient Abyssinian tongue, and illustrated with striking 
hand-painted pictures, many of which would cause the 
censors of public morals in America to throw back- 
handsprings of horror. It outdoes Boccaccio in telling 
a risque yarn boldly and with no details omitted. It 
tells a story; it does indeed. 

We sat together — Taylor, Mayer, and I — in the 
stuffy, tiny parlor of the French cafe, which is a bit of 
France transferred complete to the American waste. 
From outside in the dusty road came the cries of native 
children as they squabbled in the glare of the white 
tropical heat; an importunate old blind leper whined 
for alms at the open door; the great book lay open 
on the marble-topped table, and Taylor and I leaned 
over it fascinated, as Mayer turned the pages and 
told in his peculiarly accented English of the seduc- 
tion of the Queen of Sheba by Solomon, and the 

This, briefly, was the story of the Holy Book. 

Makeda, whom we call the Queen of Sheba, the 

11 As in Solomons Day" 101 

Abyssinians recognize as a queen of Abyssinia. She 
heard of the glory and wisdom of Solomon and, after 
an exchange of gifts between them, determined to pay 
him a visit. She arrived at Solomon's court with 
camels laden with scents and precious stones. Solomon 
received her in a room especially built of crystal from 
floor to ceiling. In it was a throne for her, made of gold 
and inlaid with diamonds and emeralds, the exact 
duplicate of her throne in Abyssinia. The floor of the 
room was of glass, so cunningly wrought that Makeda 
thought that the brook running under it, in which swam 
many-colored fishes, would wet her skirt. To escape 
this she lifted her dress when crossing over. This gave 
Solomon a chance to see her leg. So that when she 
asked him what would cure a sore on her knee he was 
able readily to tell her that it must have been already 
cured, for she had none. In the evening, Solomon 
gave Makeda a great feast, and pleaded that she tem- 
porarily during her visit become one of his numerous 
mistresses. But the Queen refused, saying she had 
been chosen as Virgin queen, and could remain queen 
only as long as she retained her virginity. 

"I accept your decision," said King Solomon. "I 
will not force you to give me anything you do not 

"Ah," said the Queen of Abyssinia, much touched, 
"I, also, am honest. Since I cannot give you your 
desire, I will accept nothing from you." 

And this gave the crafty monarch a chance to come 
into his own field. 

102 The Sea Gypsy 

"So, so," said he, "then if you do take anything 
from me, you will do what 1 wish." 

"That I will," replied Queen Makeda. 

Whereupon, Solomon instructed his steward to serve 
nothing but highly spiced and thirst-begetting foods 
and strong liquors, but no water. As a result of this, 
during the night Queen Makeda became very thirsty 
and sent her lady-in-waiting to get a pitcher of water. 
Solomon was on watch by the fountain. He seized the 
lady-in-waiting, declaring that she fell under the agree- 
ment made by her mistress, and as she had taken 
something from him she must now give over to his 
desires. Queen Makeda, becoming impatient when her 
lady-in-waiting did not return, went to the fountain 
herself, and there Solomon, again on the look-out, made 
his second capture of the evening. 

When both Makeda and her lady-in-waiting became 
in a hopeful condition they decided to return to Abys- 
sinia. In Abyssinia each bore a son. When the boys 
were half grown Makeda decided to return them to 
their father, that he might acknowledge them. Upon 
the arrival of the lads in Jerusalem Solomon became 
afraid that Makeda was passing off some other man's 
sons on him, so he put Menelik, the Queen's son, to a 
test. He awaited him in a room in which there were 
several other men dressed exactly as he. "If the boy 
picks me out as his father, I will acknowledge him," 
said Solomon. Menelik entered, and seeing a man 
with exactly the same face as he had always seen in the 
mirror, for he greatly resembled his father, he went to 

11 As in Solomons Day " 103 

him. It was Solomon. Solomon clasped his son to his 

When Menelik grew to manhood he became so much 
like his father that the advisers of the King insisted 
that he be sent away, saying that already the people 
were not able to say who was King. Solomon was very 
angry and refused. But the ministers insisted. Then 
Solomon swore a great oath, and said, "Yes, I will send 
him away ; but as I lose my son so must you lose yours. 
The eldest son of every great noble in the kingdom 
must go with him." Thus, when young Menelik 
started for Abyssinia he was accompanied by fifteen 
thousand of the most noble youths of Israel. 

Solomon had made a duplicate of the Ark for his son 
to take with him, but Menelik slipped into the Temple 
and, as he looked so much like his father, fooled the 
priests and took away the original Ark, substituting the 
duplicate. When Solomon heard of this he sent horse- 
men after the youth to rescue the sacred vessel, and 
bring it back to Jerusalem. But the young man and the 
Ark were already on the Red Sea. In Abyssinia Mene- 
lik built a temple for the Ark at Axum, and there, the 
Abyssinians believe, it rests to this day behind a sealed 
door. Menelik was crowned Emperor of Abyssinia and 
his half-brother was made a province governor. He 
made his fifteen thousand Jewish attendants nobles of 
the Empire. 

Now as to the truth of this story as told by the 
ancient book. Most of the noble class, and many 
others, show a distinctly Jewish type. The court and 

104 The Sea Gypsy 

the church are modeled after those of Solomon; there 
is said to be an Ark at Axum ; the Abyssinian priests go 
on pilgrimages to Jerusalem ; and there are in Abyssinia 
several ancient colonies of Jews called "Falashas" 
(exiles) who possess in the old Gheze language the Old 
Testament and several other ancient Jewish books. 
True or not, the Abyssinians believe it, and because of 
it believe that their rulers are the descendants of 
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. 

The greatest market square of Addis-Abeba on a 
Saturday noon is a sight worth going many days' 
journey to see. From all the country round a score of 
thousand peasants pour into the city, and gather in the 
vast square to trade and barter. Mules, asses, camels, 
horses, sheep, goats, crowd in between the squalid 
booths, where, for great round silver Maria Theresa 
dollars, or for cartridges, one can buy spears, crosses, 
leopard and zebra skins, rhinoceros-hide whips, butter, 
milk, jewelry, carpets, rugs, grain, ostrich feathers, 
monkeys, shields, swords. And through the mass there 
ride hundreds of country landowners and their followers, 
all armed to the teeth, and women carrying tiny para- 
sols of straw on the ends of sticks. 

Schoedsack, Taylor, and I rode down to the market 
one day with our interpreter, Bakalaw, a young Abys- 
sinian whom the Prince had had educated in Paris. 
Sitting by the side of the road we saw a young man and 

"As in Solomon s Day" 105 

a young woman chained together wrist to wrist, by a 
long iron chain. There was no guard with them. 

"What kind of prisoners are those, anyway?" asked 

Bakalaw smiled. "Those are not prisoners at all," 
he responded. "That man owes the woman money, 
and she is collecting it." 

1 ' What ! How ! Why ! " we all three exclaimed. 

"Yes," said Bakalaw, "Those are creditor and debt- 
or. The man owed the woman money, and wouldn't 
pay, so she went to the judge, and, as is the custom 
with us, the judge ordered the court officers to shackle 
the man to her until he pays up. They will have to 
stay chained together until the relatives of the man 
scrape together sufficient money to settle the 

"Is a bad debt always collected in that manner?" 
Shorty asked. 

1 'Yes," said Bakalaw. 

"That's the darndest way of getting your money 
back I've ever heard of," said Taylor. "I think I'd 
let a fellow just go on owing me." 

Bakalaw shrugged his shoulders. "Then you lose 
your money," he said. 

After this, for the life of me, every time I saw couples 
walking along chained together I could not help laugh- 
ing despite the sympathy I felt for the creditor. 

Some days later I was talking with Mr. Collier, the 
manager of the Abyssinian Bank. 

"How about it, Collier?" I asked. "Do you have a 

io6 The Sea Gypsy 

whole string of note defaulters chained to you most of 
the time?" 

He smiled. "We've found a way out of that," he 
replied. "I've built a private jail for the bank in our 
grounds, and hired a little army of my own. When a 
man doesn't pay on the nail I order the captain of the 
bank's army to go out and catch the debtor. Then, 
when my army nabs the chap, I stick him into the 
bank's prison until his wife or friends put up the money 
to get him out again. A very satisfactory arrangement 
it is, too. I suppose some of your bankers in the States 
would like to adopt it." 

After these revelations, I began to investigate a little 
into Abyssinian law. I found it based literally on the 
old Mosaic law of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a 
tooth." Its written code is called "The Law of Fetha 
Nagast," and is that of the ancient Coptic Church. 
But custom, too, plays a large part. Many of the laws 
would seem to American standards quite drastic, par- 
ticularly those for homicide; for it is the rule that he 
who kills must be delivered over to the family of the 
man he murdered, to be executed by them. Murder 
and accidental killings are both punished by death. 
Not even the Empress or Regent has the power of 
pardon. However, the family of the dead man may 
accept "blood-money" instead of taking the life of the 
killer. But if the family refuses the ''blood-money" 
they must kill the murderer in exactly the same fashion 
as he has taken the life of his victim. 

This law has brought about some queer cases. It is 

"As in Solomon's Day n 107 

recounted that some years ago, during Menelik's reign, 
a man, who was working high up in a tree cutting off 
a limb, fell and, landing squarely on a peasant, who 
was sleeping below, killed him. It was without a 
doubt an accident; but the dead man's brothers ap- 
peared before the Emperor, who alone could proclaim 
the death sentence, and demanded the life of the hap- 
less woodsman. 

"Our brother is dead!" they cried. "Let his slayer 

"But, my children," replied the wise old ruler, 
"surely the man never fell on your brother purposely. 
Accept, I advise you, the money which this man offers, 
and go your way in peace." 

"No," the brothers responded. "A life for a life. 
That is the law." 

Then the Emperor reflected for a moment, and his 
face grew stern. " It is well," he said. "Such, in truth, 
is the law, and the law must be obeyed." He turned to 
the Captain of his Guard. "Take the prisoner and 
place him under the tallest tree you can find. Then 
have these two brothers who demand his life carried to 
the topmost branches of that tree, and from there 
throw them down upon the prisoner, and continue 
throwing them down as many times as is necessary, 
until the prisoner below is killed." 

Upon hearing this sentence the brothers cast them- 
selves at the feet of the Emperor and announced their 
willingness to accept the blood-money. 

"No," said Menelik. "You asked for this man's 

108 The Sea Gypsy 

death. That is the law. But the law says you must 
kill him in just the same manner that he killed your 
brother. Take it, or nothing." 

The brothers decided to take nothing. 

But in cases of direct murder the families of the 
victim take the killer down beside the railroad station, 
and there publicly stab or shoot him, as the case may be. 

There is another law against brigands and robbers 
which has made almost the boast that "a child might 
leave Addis-Abeba with a cow and lead him to the 
borders of the Empire without molestation." That law 
is one that requires the public hanging or mutilation 
of brigands. Around the town were placed gallows. 
And we were informed that incorrigible thieves also 
have their hands and feet cut off. The law expressly 
forbids that both hands and both feet be cut off, so it is 
customary to simply hack off the right hand and left 
foot. This performance is also a public one, and very 
beneficial for public morals. The Prince Regent, out 
of consideration, I was told, of our supposed tender 
sensibilities, held no public executions or mutilations 
during our stay. 

I quote a few passages from the second book of the 
Pentateuch which example the severity of the law, 
which is carried out to the letter. 

"If someone be found who has stolen the soul of his 
brother, or has excited and aided in the sale of a lost 
soul, he shall suffer the pain of death." 

"If a man enters the church and takes away one of 
the sacred emblems, let the cross be laid upon him with 

"As in Solomon's Day " 109 

a red-hot iron; and he who does likewise outside the 
church, let him be pursued, and let his head be shaved, 
and let him be exiled. 

"Those who steal free or slave children, or who ravish 
the country of the domestic animals, our law commands 
that they be killed or exiled. 

"He who steals an animal of another, for the first 
offence let him be pursued, the second time exiled, and 
the third time let his hands be cut off, and the animal 
returned to its owner. 

"Whosoever is a chief of brigands and a homicide, 
let his hands be cut off, likewise the hands of those who 
aid him." 

"Those who steal in a city, for the first time, if they 
are rich and free, let them pay to the loser the double 
of the things stolen; if they are poor, let them be pur- 
sued and exiled, and if they repeat the offence, let their 
hands be cut off. 

"Nocturnal robbers visiting dwellings with arms 
merit death ; and robbers by day, who give fear to the 
people, and steal from the sacks of grain, and who 
break bolts, let them be taken before parents, and made 
to pay for that which is stolen. 

"Whosoever steals during a fire, or when a house 
collapses, or during a shipwreck, and those who fraudu- 
lently receive stolen goods, they shall pay four times as 
much as that which they have stolen. 

"Whosoever robs the dead of their clothing, let his 
hands be cut off, but the law xorbids the cutting off of 
both hands and both feet at the same time." 

no The Sea Gypsy 


Since I have returned from Abyssinia, the question I 
have been asked the most frequently is "How is it that 
Abyssinia has remained free, while all the rest of Africa 
has been conquered ? " My belief is that this is because 
the ruling class is not of negroid blood. The pure- 
blooded Abyssinians, however, are only a small per- 
centage of the population, yet they have managed to 
retain power over the far more numerous people of the 
negroid race. The late Professor Littman, of Princeton 
University, who investigated in Abyssinia in 1 905-1 906, 
said the true Abyssinian type "contains no negro blood 
whatever, and none of the negro qualities, either physi- 
cal or mental," and they are described by German 
scientists as being a mixed Hamito-Semitic people. 
Personally, I should say that, from appearance, the 
ruling class has a strong strain of Jewish blood. 

In fact, the pure-blooded Abyssinian, whatever his 
shade of color, whether olive or black (and most I saw 
were of the latter color), hotly resents being considered 
a negro, whom he looks on as one of a slave people. In 
regard to this, Mr. Skinner relates how, when he was 
traveling by caravan from the coast up to Addis- 
Abeba, and had camped for the night, he noticed a 
tent being erected several hundred yards away. A 
little later a servant brought him a card, on which was 
inscribed "Commandant Benito Sylvian, Envoy of 
his Excellency the President of the Republic of Haiti, 
to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia." 
A few minutes afterwards Commandant Sylvian, a full- 

11 As in Solomon's Day " in 

blooded negro, of course, arrived in a splendid uniform 
— varnished Wellington boots, spurs, white breeches, 
sword, and an order sparkling upon his breast. 

Commandant Sylvian was on a special mission. Con- 
cerning this mission, Mr. Skinner writes that "Mr. 
Sylvian conceived the happy idea some years ago of 
seeking Emperor Menelik in order to secure His Majes- 
ty's adhesion to a programme for the general amelio- 
ration of the negro race. To Mr. Benito Sylvian it 
seemed especially appropriate that the greatest black 
man in the world should become the honorary president 
of the projected society. The Emperor is said to have 
listened with great patience to the exposition of this 
idea, and then, with that fine, dry humor characteristic 
of him, he replied : 

"Yours is a most excellent idea, my young friend. 
The negro should be uplifted. I applaud your theory, 
and I wish you the greatest possible success. But in 
coming to me to take the leadership you are knocking 
at the wrong door, so to speak. You know, I am not a 
negro at all; I am a Caucasian." 

It is interesting to note also that in the Abyssinian 
paintings good men are represented as white and bad 
men as black. 

However, the Abyssinian nobles have committed the 
same great error as the Arabs in the coast towns of 
Yemen. A slave-owning people, they have for centuries 
had numbers of negro slave women in their households, 
by whom they have had children. As a result, a strong 
negroid strain has been introduced into even part of the 

ii2 The Sea Gypsy 

ruling class. If the Empire falls, this will be the chief 
contributing cause, for the negro race has always been, 
and will continue to be, an inferior one, incapable of 

And so closes Cooper's story of his visit to that feudal 
kingdom of Northeast Africa. Ten hours after he and 
Schoedsack and Taylor had reached Jibuti again the 
Wisdom headed out to sea — once more gypsying down 
strange sea trails. 



' I 'HE Wisdom journeyed one spring up through the 
Golden Indies. She stopped for a little at the 
tiny island of Bali, where the women are lovely beyond 
men's dreams and the gorgeous green mountains rise 
up against an ever-blue sky; she visited Java, that 
narrow island packed with teeming millions ; and then 
rested for a long, long time in the port of Singapore 
— where she lay, a low, graceful white shape amidst the 
high Chinese junks. Then one day we sailed her across 
the straights of Malacca, stopping only on an island of 
the true Sea Gypsies which lay across our track, and 
finally sighted the green coasts of Sumatra, with the 
great mountains rising from its heart and stretching 
north and south as far as the eye could see. 

We sailed up a dark jungle river, with the monkeys 
chattering monkey curses at us from the low branches 
on either side, and the crocodiles, as they lay with their 
noses on the edge of the mud, dreaming of juicy little 
Malays, and everybody aft muttering "mosquitoes — 
malaria." But little Johnny, Andy, and the rest of the 


ii 4 

The Sea Gypsy 

crew sighed deep sighs of content; this looked like a 
little bit of home. 

We anchored in midstream off the dirty little Malay 
town of Belawan. It was hard to realize, down in that 
murky dank stillness, so cut away from everything, 
that we had really come into one of the principal ports 
of the fifth largest island in the world, and that in the 
uplands of this island a hundred miles away from us on 
a great, cool plateau there lived, near a mountain lake 
so big and so beautiful that the Dutch, the rulers of 
Sumatra, have called it a sea, a strange race of proud, 
untamed little brown people called Bataks. These 
Bataks were the people we were planning to "go see." 

From Belawan we went up to Medan, a clean, model 
little city which the Dutch have built in the last genera- 
tion. This is the haven of refuge for the men from the 
lonely rubber plantations in the jungle, but it is still 
more deeply loved by the Dutch officials who rule over 
the Achinese in Sumatra. After seventy years of war- 
fare the Dutch have not yet completed the subjection 
of Achin, and when a man of Achin wants to reach 
Paradise he goes out and kills a Dutchman and keeps 
on killing Dutchmen until he himself is killed. How- 
ever, of late the Achinese have not been quite so fierce, 
for they live under the threat of "The Tiger," that 
half-caste general who but a few years ago marched 
straight through the land of their border brothers and 
left half of the males of a whole people dead behind him. 

Now the Bataks, whose country we were to enter, 
have only been fourteen years under white domination, 

Temple Gateway in the Island of Bali, Dutch East Indies 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 117 

and their reputation, though somewhat better than 
that of the Achinese, was not too good, so when I 
announced that we — Burghard, Cooper, a camera man 
and I, of the ship's company of the Wisdom — were 
going into the Batak country one man drew me aside 
and said: "Keep your eyes open when you go alone 
among them. The Toba-Bataks around the big moun- 
tain lake, Toba Meer, are all right — they are completely 
conquered; but look out for the mountain Bataks. 
Four years ago one tribe of them took their Dutch 
Controleur, pinned him against a wall, and cut him to 
pieces with their knives. Then they ate the palms of 
his hands, and the soles of his feet, and his tongue. 
They said they did it because with his hands he wrote 
their laws, and because he used his feet to walk among 
them, and his tongue to give orders. So, look out. 
They aren't very fond of white men " 

After listening to this gloomy advice, our journey's 
end proved quite a surprise. We rode all day up 
through jungle-covered mountains until we came at 
last up on a plateau, cool and high, cut off from the 
world by a ring of smoking volcanoes. For twenty 
miles we went along this, seeing on every side a wide 
expanse of prairie-like fields, dotted here and there with 
tiny forests; then at last arrived at a low bungalow 
set on a bit of green grass, on the porch of which stood 
a tall young white man spectacled and unarmed. 

He greeted us cheerfully in good English: "I am the 
Controleur of this district. My name is Mulder. 
Come in, please." 

n8 The Sea Gypsy 

There, in the cool little house, we were introduced 
to his young wife and his two rollicking babies. They 
were living — with only a handful of native constabulary 
to protect them — in the center of the savage race over 
which Mulder was in actuality supreme ruler. During 
the days we stayed in his country, Mulder acted as our 
host and guide. We rode with him to the outlying 
villages of his people, and from him learned something 
of their native customs, as well as the part that a lone 
white man may play as the monarch of an alien race. 

Mulder's people, the Karo-Bataks, are water dwellers 
who have lost their sea, for once their country was 
probably covered by an inland sea which burst its 
high wall and rushed down to the ocean. They worship 
demons, yet they have a cultivated written language 
resembling ancient Phoenician, and they play chess 
with the skill of the habitues of Vienna and Warsaw 
coffee houses. The men dress in gay-colored skirts, ride 
bareback, like our Western Indians, and carry long 
knives, with which they hack each other to pieces on 
the slightest pretext. The women have lovely forms, 
and their graceful one-piece slips and turbans of blue 
are so exactly alike that you would think them nurses 
or nuns of some order; they drag crude wooden ploughs 
like beasts and do all the manual labor, but they have 
such a hardy independence that they hang themselves 
when they fail to have children or are forced to marry 
men they hate, and before dropping into space light 
fires under their bodies so that they may roast and 
choke to death at the same time. 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 119 

The villages of the Karo-Bataks are as interesting as 
their inhabitants. Looking down on the plateau from 
the side of one of its encircling mountains, it appears 
to be an uninhabited plain dotted with tiny forests. 
But these, in reality, are thin circles of trees and brush 
enclosing the villages like walls, and entirely hiding 
them. The big, beautiful houses, built without nails, 
look like ships on stilts. These the people call "boats," 
as they call their villages "islands," though most of 
them have never seen a real boat or any body of water 
larger than a stream. These names have come down 
from the long-ago time before their sea flowed away 
and left them. The houses have thatched roofs, curved 
fore and aft like the lines of a ship and decorated with 
elaborately carved buffalo heads to protect the dwellings 
from the attacks of evil spirits. From six to twenty 
families sleep on the single deck-like floor of each 
house, which is divided by a long passage running 
through it, with a balcony at either end. These 
"boats," near which are curious rice barns and buffalo 
sheds, are built around a central square, in which is a 
"club house," a block for stamping rice, and a fenced- 
off garden containing the magic flowers of the Garou, 
the medicine man. 

Sometimes, also, in the square is a small house- 
monument, painted in many colors and covered with 
images of snakes, imps and unmentionable parts of the 
human body. Made fast to the rafters of this is the 
skeleton of the rich man who had erected it in his honor 
before his death. It is placed there two or three years 

120 The Sea Gypsy 

after the man's death, when his family dig it up. In 
one village I observed an especially elaborate house- 
monument, and praised it, but Mulder frowned. 

"Pretty enough," said he. "But the man whose 
bones rest there was a murderer and all-round scoundrel. 
Now, whenever anyone around is planning mischief he 
creeps out here in the night and prays to it. Then he 
goes away ready for any deviltry." 

Such spirit worship is a decided factor in the Karo- 
Batak life. With their hatred of foreign domination 
they have refused to listen to missionaries, and have 
kept the demon worship of their forefathers. One day 
I noticed a woman, who was carrying a bag of rice on 
her head, stop and sneeze. Then, as quick as a flash, 
she threw off the bag, held out her hand and began to 
cluck excitedly, as if she were calling runaway chickens. 
I looked around but no fowls could I see; and the 
woman, without more to-do, picked up her bag and 
walked calmly off. "She was afraid the good spirits 
were flying out of her body with the sneeze, and was 
calling them back," Mulder explained to me that night. 

In another house I observed a house with a sort of 
window cut in the side. I was surprised for it was the 
first window I had seen in any Karo-Batak dwelling. 
The reason for it was that a man was lying dead within, 
and the family had made the hole to pass the body 
through, for they had not dared to carry it out the door, 
for fear that his ghost might remember how it went 
out and find its way back again. It had no chance to 
get back through the hole, for this they closed imme- 

On Lake Toba, Sumatra 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 123 

diately after the body was slid through it. They 
carried the corpse a mile away from the village to bury 
it, and by a roundabout route, so that it would not 
recognize the road back, and they buried it facing away 
from the village for the same reason. Under its arm- 
pits they placed eggs, thinking that it would not dare 
to get up for fear of breaking them. As a final precau- 
tion, for a few days after the funeral the relatives of the 
dead man dressed in their oldest clothes, so that, if the 
ghost did manage to find its way back, it would not be 
jealous of them, and would go away again and leave 
them in peace. 

Another peculiar custom of the Karo-Bataks about 
spirits is the attempt of the old men to fool the Death 
Demon. An elderly man, when he thinks his days on 
earth are almost through, will invite all his friends to 
his funeral on a certain day. When they arrive, appar- 
ently a corpse is lying there in state dressed in the 
host's best clothing; but it is really only a log of wood 
carved to resemble a man. This log is carried to the 
grave, followed by the mourners weeping as loudly as 
possible, and buried with all ceremony. The old man 
hopes that the Death Demon will notice the funeral 
and, believing that he is already dead, will not come 
for him. 

I once ran athwart one of these customs of spirit 
worship, and in doing so violated the second clause 
of a very good rule in dealing with savage peoples. The 
first part of that rule is to let the women strictly alone, 
and the second is never to interfere with their religious 


The Sea Gypsy 

customs. On this occasion, accompanied only by one 
of my crew and a Malay who spoke Batak, we were 
passing near a village, which, as usual, was hidden 
from view by a small circle of high trees and thick 
shrubbery, when we saw by the roadside, a sort of sedan 
chair covered with fresh leaves and flowers, in which 
sat three wooden figures the size of small dolls. We 
thought it would make an interesting photograph, and 
I took my camera out of its case. At this, an old Batak 
woman, who had been standing near by holding the 
hand of a child screamed, and turned and ran for the 
village, while the Malay cried out, "The people will be 
angry, Tuan. That is their dead chief and his wives." 
But we had already started off with the thing, so we 
carried it out into the center of the road, set it down, 
lifted out the statues of the chief and one of his wives 
and propped them up against the side of the con- 
veyance, so that they would show in the picture. Then 
I took a snap of them. While I was focusing for a sec- 
ond time, a number of Bataks came out from the 
village, shouting angrily, and my companion said, 
"Look out, here come some natives with their knives." 
But they did not attack us as I finished photographing. 
As we returned the chair to its original position the 
Bataks kept up their clamor, and their voices followed 
us far down the road when we went away. "Oh, Tuan, ' ' 
the Malay said, "those people say you will be forever 
followed and cursed by the ghost of their chief, for a 
year ago he died, and this day he returned to his people 
and was there inside of the doll." 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 125 

One of Mulder's chief problems is to make life easier 
for the women of his people, for they, in truth, have a 
hard time. Among the Karo-Bataks the man is truly 
Lord and Master; the woman only a worker. The 
women plough, hoe, pound rice, cook, sew, weave and 
dye ; and one sees their blue -draped figures everywhere 
along the roads with ploughs or sacks balanced on their 
heads. The only burden I ever saw a man carry was 
a horse-hide mat ; every man has one of these and never 
goes out without it. Whenever he meets an acquaint- 
ance down goes the mat on the ground, and the two 
men collect a handful of pebbles, give them names, 
mark out a chessboard in the sand and fall to playing. 
The next man who comes along stops to watch the 
game, and the next, until at last there is a congenial 
group. The game does not break up until the women 
come back from the fields to prepare a meal for their 

The only thing for which a man will stop a chess 
game is to fight. Each man carries a long knife thrust 
swaggeringly in his sash, and this he is trained to use 
from boyhood. As the Karo-Bataks are a high- 
tempered and quarrelsome race they fight often, and 
every year Mulder has to punish several hundred of 
them for stabbing comrades. Just before we came to 
their country, Mulder's court, which is composed of 
five chiefs, with him as presiding officer, gave an eight- 
een-year-old lad a six-year sentence for killing a man 
over a chess game. The boy was a guest at the older 

126 The Sea Gypsy 

man's house. They played chess. The boy won. The 
man refused to pay the small sum wagered on the game. 
"You mustn't ask for money," he said. "I am your 
host, and I only let you win because I wished to be 
polite. You played stupidly." The boy's answer was 
to stab his host through the heart. 

Sometimes, however, a man will not revenge an in- 
sult so quickly. He says nothing, but arms himself 
with a special knife, fitted with a curved handle which 
lies snugly in the hand while the blade is hidden under 
his loose sleeve. When he catches his enemy unawares, 
out flashes the knife, and the man is dead before he has 
a chance to draw his weapon. Another little way a 
Karo-Batak has of obtaining vengeance — and this 
method is in high favor among the women — is to cut 
up palm-leaf fiber into tiny bits, sprinkle them into 
some delectable dish and invite his (or her) enemy to a 
feast of reconciliation. The visitor eats, and the fiber 
points act like ground glass in his stomach ; as there are 
no post-mortem examinations in that country, this is 
considered an excellent method of doing away with a 
rival. Other ways of revenge are to thrust pointed 
canes into the bodies of a foe's water buffaloes and horses 
during the night, and to trample down his fields. When 
Mulder's police go to a village to arrest a man guilty of 
one of these crimes they often find that another man 
comes forward and holds out his wrists for the shackles. 
This substitute is the criminal's "Anak-Baroe" or 
"shadow," for when a man marries, one of the brothers 
of his bride becomes his shadow, and must be ready to 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 129 

answer for his brother-in-law even with his life, for this 
is the custom of the land. However, Mulder refuses to 
punish the shadows, but, to the consternation of all, 
demands the actual criminal. 

The men never walk when they can ride, which is 
nearly always, for each man has one or more mountain 
ponies. I used to see men riding about apparently 
aimlessly, and I remarked about this to Mulder. 

"They are going to visit their wives," said he. 

"But don't their wives live at home?" I asked, 

Mulder explained. It seems that each Batak man 
has several wives, and for each of these he has a home. 
When he marries, the Chief of the bride's village assigns 
him a place in a house there, and gives him a plot of the 
village land. When he takes a second wife, he gets 
another home in the second village; for a third wife, a 
third home, and so on. So he spends much of his time 
riding from village to village visiting his different wives. 
Each wife works her rice field for him, and keeps up an 
establishment, supplying him with what money he 
wants for gambling. All he has to do is to assist in the 
breeding of children. The more wives he has the richer 
he is. Girl children also mean wealth, for they can do 
a certain amount of productive labor. The girls are 
practically sold as wives, and for that reason their 
virginity is protected, as they are more valuable so. 

The Dutch decided that if the Karo-Bataks were 
going to treat their women as property they would have 
to pay taxes on them, so now the women are on the 


The Sea Gypsy 

same tax list as horses and cattle, and a Batak man 
must pay a six per cent tax on each woman over eight- 
een years old in his many households. As every able- 
bodied one is considered to be worth a hundred guilders 
(about thirty dollars), and as each Karo-Batak has 
from three to five families, this amounts to quite a sum. 
Many a Karo-Batak girl deliberately has a child by 
some young man she likes, in order to decrease her 
value on the marriage market, thinking thus she may 
escape being sold to an old man, and be given to her 
young lover for a small price. 

But the girls sometimes lose their virginity in another 
fashion, because at the harvest festival, after the danc- 
ing and feasting, every man is allowed to take any 
woman he can catch. Mulder sent fifty men and forty 
women to jail for such a celebration recently. This 
did not please the village elders, who came to him to 
protest. "We have no chance, like the young men, to 
get a pretty girl every day," they said. "This was our 
one fine opportunity, and now you would ruin it. It 
is not good." But Mulder would not yield, so it seems 
the old men have lost their great day of the year. 

But the part Mulder plays with the Karo-Bataks is 
a far greater one than that of an administrator of laws. 
He is a transplanter of the white man's civilization. 
The white man, as a famous American writer once 
said, is driven on by some force within himself to 
"farm the world." He comes pushing through the 
jungle and forest to where a people have cheerfully 
lived as cannibals or head-hunters for the past few 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 131 

thousand years, and says to himself, "Here, here! 
This won't do. The idea of these fellows cutting up 
like that!" Then he himself proceeds to kill right and 
left until he has cured this strange people of their bad 
habits. Then he says, ' ' Now that all is law and order in 
the land, I must teach this folk the way of civilization." 
And he looks about him, and begins to dream of bridges 
and roads and irrigation systems. And it annoys him 
immensely when the native show unmistakably that 
they want none of these changes. 

Of all the ' ' Makers of civilization " I have met during 
considerable wandering Mulder was perhaps the most 
level-headed about this. ' 4 Change must come natural- 
ly," he told us. "Simply because we have what we 
believe to be a superior civilization does not mean that 
the native will also think so. So if you change the con- 
ditions under which he lives, you must show him how 
to meet the new life. And you must show him by ex- 
amples a thousand times repeated." 

' ' For example : By taking over this country we Dutch 
have immeasurably increased the security of life. 
Before, due to frequent tribal wars, all members of a 
tribe were forced to live close together in one unsani- 
tary, compact village. That gave protection. Now 
this is no longer necessary. But what good is it to tell 
the Bataks so? None. They only know that their 
forefathers have lived in one manner, and they can 
understand no change from that. So, instead of giving 
them orders or lectures, I have built, and am continu- 
ing to build, roads and roads and more roads. I let the 

132 The Sea Gypsy 

men pay their part of the taxes by work on the roads. 
And by the side of one of the first roads I had con- 
structed a one-family house. Then I found a family 
to live in it. 

"For months nothing happened. Then the Karo- 
Bataks saw that the wives of this man who lived directly 
on his field — instead of in a village several miles from 
it — saved the long walk in the morning and the evening 
back and forth to and from work. They also saw that 
the life of this family was happier than those who dwelt 
in a huge house where twenty families squabble to- 
gether. And so many have already left the huddled 
villages and come out and made their homes along the 
roads. This has already begun to make a difference in 
the life of the people. And, what is more important, 
the life of the woman seems to be easier under such 
conditions. She has obtained a larger place in life. 

"There is another difference, due to the security 
brought by white domination. Formerly, because of 
the constant tribal wars, there was always a large death 
rate. Now that these have been discontinued the 
population is increasing. It is a problem I must meet, 
for with the Bataks' antiquated methods of agriculture 
— the use of the oldest known form of plough and even 
of two pointed sticks to break ground — they were 
unable to raise sufficient food to feed the entire popula- 
tion. Again I must show by example. I have ordered 
modern ploughs and a Ford tractor. But I will force 
no one to use it. Example, always example, as with 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 135 

"To meet this food problem I must also bring under 
development the large tracts of waste land not hitherto 
under cultivation. There is plenty of water on the 
plateau for irrigation; but no money for the work. 
Now, I have a scheme to get the money. You have 
seen the enormously heavy silver earrings that a few 
of the older women wear, and the younger on festival 
occasions. These are going out of fashion, so to speak, 
with the Karo-Bataks. And there are 20,000 pairs of 
such earrings among my people. Their weight amounts 
to 40,000 kilos of silver, worth probably two million 
guilders. There is the money for the irrigation. But I 
cannot requisition them for this work. I must try the 
arts of persuasion. I must show an irrigated field, and 
thus prove to the Karo-Bataks that it is real wealth, 
far greater than the wealth of silver ornaments. Then 
perhaps I can persuade the Council of Chiefs to advise 
their people to bring in the earrings for me to sell. 
Thus, I hope to irrigate the land." 

These were a few of the plans of this wise young 
Dutch governor, with which he hoped to enable his 
people to meet the change brought about by white 

We were anxious to see a Karo-Batak marriage 
ceremony, but as at that time there were no marriages 
among the rich families who could afford an elaborate 
festival, Mulder was kind enough to stage one for us, 
so that we might make pictures of it. This took place 
in a large village, some eight miles from his house. I 
do not remember ever having seen a more picturesque 

136 The Sea Gypsy 

sight than the one which greeted us when we came out 
of the little forest into the village. Hundreds of natives 
were in the center of the square; barefooted women in 
graceful indigo-blue robes tucked in just above their 
breasts, leaving bare lovely arms and necks and shoul- 
ders, many wearing gold and silver ornaments ; the men 
in gay colored sarongs and turbans, the elaborately 
carved handles of their knives showing above their 
sashes; and a horde of naked brown youngsters — all 
standing about the ceremonial circle, which was bor- 
dered with fresh green plants and flowering bushes; 
while on every side were the great houses, their carved 
bullock heads glaring down at us from the thatched 
roofs. This scene has as a natural background of 
beauty a huge green and brown and purple mountain, 
with soft white clouds breaking about its peak. 

At one side of the circle the musicians sat cross-legged 
on the ground, and, no sooner had we entered the village 
gate than they greeted us with flutes and drums and 
brass tom-toms, playing a song of welcome, while three 
men and three girls danced forward singing: "The 
strangers have come to our home. Let us greet them 
with smiles and rejoicing. Oh, welcome, strangers." 
The chief, an upstanding middle-aged man in an 
incongruous European white coat, shook hands with us, 
and led us to seats at one side of the circle. The dancers 
stopped and bowed, and two men — one small with a 
pugnacious little moustache, the other tall and lean 
and graceful as a greyhound — took their places. They 
walked to opposite ends of the dancing mat. Then 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 137 

each drew a knife, and, with a scornful gesture, threw 
it into the center of the circle. 

Then began the famous ''Dance of the Knife," for 
which every Karo-Batak man is trained, as the move- 
ments used in it are the same as those employed in 
actual knife duels. The music took a defiant, crowing 
note. It sounded as if two cocks were challenging each 
other; and I noticed that in this, as well as in the other 
dances, that both the musicians and the dancers seemed 
to imitate some familiar animal of field or forest. In a 
wonderfully timed and variated series of steps and 
gestures the men rushed forward, back, and forward 
again; then, with fierce gesticulations — all as ever, in 
time with the music — they snatched up their knives 
and fell to. Stab and thrust, the steel glittered in the 
sunlight, as the fighters circled about each other, 
nostrils distended and eyes gleaming, until with a 
sudden motion as swift as the spur thrust of a bantam 
cock striking for the kill, the little man grasped the 
other's knife arm, wrenched it sideways and down, 
forcing him to his knees. The aggressor swung up his 
weapon for the death blow, when the man at his feet 
broke loose and flung away in a desperate whirl. They 
closed again, and this time each managed to grip the 
knife wrist of his opponent; and they stood, breast 
heaving against breast, knives forced high in the air, 
as their bodies swayed back and forth. Then both 
knives fell to the ground, and the men fought for each 
other's throat. Now the big man suddenly caught his 
game little enemy by the neck and waist and hurled 

138 The Sea Gypsy 

him to the ground, and grasping a knife almost with the 
same movement appeared to plunge it into the loser's 
breast. Then he proudly placed one foot on the appar- 
ently lifeless body, and swung his blade high in the air 
in a triumphant gesture. 

We applauded, for at no time, though the dance was 
as scientific a contest as a fast-fought match or saber 
duel, did the performers for a single movement lose 
time with the music. 

As the fighters retired, a little old man carrying a 
long stick trotted out. His face was so wizened and 
wrinkled that he looked like a monkey. That just fitted 
his part, for he gave "The Monkey Dance." He placed 
the pole on the mat, and wiggled about it for all the 
world like the red-jacketed, human-appearing little 
animal, which, when I was a small boy, the Italian organ 
grinder used to send climbing up to my mother's window, 
where I would be waiting with a penny for it. Finally, 
the old monkey dancer placed the pole upright, and, 
making hideous grimaces, swung around and around it. 

Our camera man, who had pushed his movie camera 
near, so as to take a "close-up" suddenly looked up 
with an expression of blank amazement on his face, 
for the monkey man with one swift movement had 
hopped right up to the camera and thrust his distorted 
countenance directly up against the lens. The savage 
audience howled with glee. 

Then followed "The Dance of the Joke," when two 
men with small poles, pretended that heavy burdens 
were attached to them. These comedians fell all over 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 141 

each other in their efforts to raise their sacks of imagina- 
tion, and they, as the others who had preceded them, 
never lost the rhythm of the music, even in their wildest 
slap-stick comedy antics. 

They went away, and now, above the sound of the 
drums and tom-toms, the flutes shrilled high, imitating 
the sound of male and female birds calling to each other. 
Two girls, of about fifteen, very shy, faced a group of 
smiling men. The girls swayed lightly back and forth, 
retreating as the men danced forward, twisting their 
bodies amorously. Then an older man rushed out and 
scolded the girls for running away. Whereupon they 
permitted the men to advance and the two groups 
sang to each other. 

During the dancing I had been watching the audience, 
for it, indeed, was as interesting as the dancers. Seated 
on a mat across the circle from the musicians were three 
young girls, as pretty of their type as you could wish 
to see. They were dressed far more elaborately than 
any of the other women. In addition to the single blue 
slip tucked in over the breasts, these girls had high 
collared blue jackets embroidered with black cloth, 
left open so as to expose their rounded necks, while 
their new blue cloth headdresses hung down until they 
reached below their waists. On each side of the head- 
dresses were attached the heavy round silver ornaments 
which nearly all Karo-Batak women own, but which 
the younger ones rarely wear except at festivals. Their 
fingers were loaded down with huge gold rings, cut in 
fantastic designs. 

142 The Sea Gypsy 

At the conclusion of the Flirtation Dance, these girls 
got slowly to their feet, and clinging tightly to each 
other's hands, and never raising their eyes from the 
ground, walked timidly to the center of the circle. All 
eyes were on them. There was no sound now but the 
slow boom of the tom-tom and that of one flute trilling 
some gentle measure. 

' 'The bride and her bridesmaids," whispered Mulder. 

They were shy, oh, very shy. No persuasion could 
make them face the camera — then. But they danced 
a slow, easy dance together, and very beautiful they 
were as they did it. I have long since forgotten the 
name of the village where I saw them, but as I watched 
these girls dancing there I thought to myself that truly 
it should be named after them, and so it is that we of 
the crew of the Wisdom who were there that day always 
speak of it as ''The Village of the Three Little Maids." 

But the ordeal for the little maids was not over. 
They had to go through the marriage ceremony, and 
they were so afraid that I thought for a little that they 
would surely run away. Finally, however, after being 
bullied and coaxed by the chief and others of the village 
elders, two of them took seats on one side of a mat, and 
the third, the bride, who was called "Boeah," or "Hap- 
piness," sat down at the head of it. Then came three 
youths, dressed in spotless garments. The groom, 
known as "The Fighter," seated himself by the side of 
his bride, and the best man and second groomsman 
took places facing the bride's attendants. 

The two parties scarcely dared look at each other; 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 143 

but the boys who had come from a village fifteen miles 
away — for the girls were of high rank and it was neces- 
sary to have men of equal position to play opposite 
them — on being taunted by the young men of our 
village, began to grin sheepishly at the little maids. 
Then came the mother of Happiness, and placed a bowl 
of rice before her daughter and her future son-in-law. 
It is part of the Karo-Batak marriage that the bride 
and bridegroom must first exchange intimate parts of 
clothing, but this they were supposed to have already 
done, so now Happiness and The Fighter dipped their 
hands in the rice bowl together and ate of the rice. 

Then came a hitch in the performance. Happiness 
apparently refused to go on, and all the crowd began to 
laugh. The indignant chief stepped forward and began 
to scold her again, and finally she yielded. It was now 
supposed to be night time. The three young men, 
and the mother, and the second bridesmaid went aw r ay, 
leaving Happiness and her maid of honor together. 
They lay down on the bridal mat and closed their eyes 
as if asleep. Meanwhile The Fighter had come back 
and was standing on tiptoe not far off. The maid of 
honor glanced up, saw him, and very quickly got up 
and crept away, while he just as stealthily took her 
place by the side of his " sleeping ' ' bride. So ended the 
marriage ceremony. 

Did I say the Three Little Maids were camera-shy? 
After this we couldn't keep them from in front of the 
camera. The performance they had been so afraid of 
was over, and now they were like care-free schoolgirls 

144 The Sea Gypsy 

at a dance. And their very happiness spoiled their 
beauty in our eyes, because now they began to smile, 
and smiling, instead of rows of little white teeth, they 
showed toothless gums. 

It seems that all Karo-Batak girls and boys, when 
they become of marriageable age go through the agony 
of having their front teeth filed away. We asked to see 
how this was done, and the chief agreed. A pleasant 
and intelligent appearing old Batak, the Garou of the 
village, sat down and called a boy out of the crowd. 
Grinning, the lad came forward and laid his head on the 
old man's knee. Two assistant Garous brought the 
necessary instruments — a hammer and a number of 
small iron chisels and files — and a bowl of water filled 
with magic flowers. Before each instrument was used 
it was dipped into the bowl, so that the magic flowers 
might guide it to do its work well. Of course we had 
expected the Garou to show only how he handled his 
instruments, but instead he placed a chisel against one 
of the lad's upper front teeth, gave it a sharp blow with 
his hammer ; and the boy sat up and spat out a hunk of 
tooth. Then the Garou went ahead and chipped away 
at his victim's teeth in a lively fashion. Not once did 
the boy wince or cry out, and Mulder informed us that 
all Karo-Bataks, both boys and girls, consider them- 
selves disgraced if they showed any emotion during 
this operation, which, from what experience I have had 
with dentists, must be an extraordinarily painful one. 

When the Three Little Maids saw that we were taking 
a picture of this gentle scene, they skipped around in 

The Lost Sea People of Sumatra 145 

front of the camera and sat down as close to the boy as 
they could ; and there they stayed until we called a halt 
to the operation, for it was growing late, and it was 
time to go. 

After I had told goodbye to the chief and the rest of 
the villagers outside of the gate, where they had accom- 
panied us, I looked back and thought what a splendid 
picture the village made, with the mountain towering 
over it as I looked at it first through a frame made by 
some big palm leaves which grew at one side of the gate. 
I asked our camera man to take a photograph of it 
with his largest camera. As soon as he began to set it 
up the three girls spotted him, and back they ran un- 
asked and stopped in the center of the village square, 
right in front of the lens. 



IF some day you feel that life has grown dull and that 
there is no more adventure left in the world, why, 
take a small sailing vessel and steer for the waters north 
of Australia. Then you will come to where for twenty- 
four hundred miles a line of islands stretch in a thin 
crescent. Here is the graveyard of ships without 
number, and here too the graveyard of the bodies of 
men and of their souls and minds and reputations. 
Under the waters about the islands are deadly jagged 
coral reefs ; and on the islands are the fiercest and most 
primitive of savages; while the air abounds with fever 
and pestilence. Death is thus under the sea, on land, 
and in the air. 

At the eastern stretch of this crescent is the biggest 
island in the world — New Guinea, the savage Papua, 
the interior of which is one of the world's unsolved 
mysteries ; then as you sail further westward you come 
to the Solomons, where the head of man, woman, or 
child is still considered the greatest of human prizes, 
and the bodies of men break out in festering sores, and 


The Beast Men 147 

fevers burn out all moral and physical stamina; and 
sailing still further to the west you arrive at the New 
Hebrides, where life approaches nearest to the brute 
and the value of woman is literally less than that of a 
pig. These lands are nominally under the control of 
European governments, but the white man's law 
touches only the coast fringe of life in Melanesia and 
Papua. The interiors are as they have been since the 
beginning of history — the jungle home of cannibals and 

I spent the best part of six months sailing through 
these waters in the Wisdom. 

When the Wisdom sailed into the harbor of Vila, the 
tiny capital of the New Hebrides, a little group of gal- 
vanized roofed bungalows and trading shacks on the 
edge of the jungle, the hundred whites who live there 
were enjoying a rather grim and ironical joke at the 
expense of the French and English governors who rule 
jointly over this savage land, which recognizes author- 
ity only at the point of a gun. 

The joke was this: Some white man, a trader, as I 
recall it, had ventured to land on the coast of Malekula, 
the largest island of the New Hebrides. Now, Malekula 
carries the title of "The Island of Fiends," and the 
natives, living up to their usual reputation, had clubbed 
and eaten the white man, and adorned a chief's hut 
with his skull. A party of marines had landed to punish 
the murderers. As the killing had been done by the 

148 The Sea Gypsy 

bushmen of the interior, the officer commanding the 
marines went to a coast village to get as allies a hundred 
of the "saltwatermen" as the natives along the shore 
are called — for the saltwatermen are mortal enemies 
of the bushmen. To accustom the marine recruits to 
native tactics he then determined to make a sham 
attack on the saltwatermen' s village. But the natives 
understood nothing of sham battles, and when the 
marines attacked in play they fought back in earnest. 
The village was almost destroyed in the sham "sham 
battle." Finally the leaders managed to separate the 
combatants, and the next day the punitive expedition 
marched into the jungle-fended mountains. There it 
was properly ambushed and driven back to the coast 
leaving four dead behind. A second expedition did not 
attempt to land, but contented itself with lying off the 
island in a little gunboat and shelling the silent hills. 
"Which," said the Englishman who recounted the 
story to me, "I am sure gave the beggars up there quite 
a fine spectacle, besides probably ploughing up some 
ground for yam patches." 

This event is typical of Malekula. It rests today as it 
did a thousand years ago, outside of the "utmost purple 
rim" of civilization. The missionaries and traders who 
have attempted to live there, have all disappeared; 
some have died of fever, but the majority have been 
killed and eaten by the cannibal natives. 

However, on the small island of Atchin off the coast 
of Malekula a foothold has been maintained by one 
bold Seventh Day Adventist missionary, named Stewart 

The Beast Men 149 

and his wife. They are protected by a little stretch of 
sea from the bushmen killers, who, though islanders, 
know neither how to swim, fish, nor handle canoes. 
Hiring as pilot a swarthy Frenchman named Francois, 
who usually wore a wide engaging grin, despite the fact 
that he just as frequently shook with malaria, we 
sailed for At chin. 

A white shack sparsely furnished, the eternal gal- 
vanized iron roof, a few half-clad blacks as servants, and 
behind their house the little wild island, and across the 
bay the great grey and black shape of fierce Malekula — 
there was something immensely pitiful about it — this 
home of the Stewarts whom we visited there. For these 
people, the middle-aged greying man bent with fever 
and the woman with the tired eyes, were sincere ; there 
was no question of a doubt of that; and though they 
had given many years of their lives in this spot at the 
outer end of the earth for their religion they had not 
made a single real convert. The worship of demons 
was just as firm in the wild people who surrounded 
them as ever. Even as we came the islanders were 
preparing for a great demon religious festival. 

This event is known as the "yam festival," for the 
natives believe they must make a sacrifice of blood to 
the " devil-devil" who gives them the crop of yams; 
which is their chief article of food. The festival lasts 
for thirty days. During this time there is a truce 
between the neighboring warring tribes, and they visit 
each other to dance and gorge at the different sacred 
places of sacrifice of the "devil-devil" . . . The 

150 The Sea Gypsy 

"Sing-Sing grounds," (as they are called in beche-de- 
mer) on Atchin Island was located almost in sight of 
Stewart's house; and it was a bitter thing for these two 
missionaries to have to listen through the long night 
to the hideous screaming of the dancers as they wor- 
shipped the demon of fear. 

All day long before the festival the visitors from the 
shore of Malekula began to come in small canoes. We 
watched them from the porch of Stewart's bungalow. 
They were a hideous squat crowd of little blacks, naked 
except for a small leaf ; and thrust through the lobes of 
their ears were old tin cans, nails, and pig tails. Many 
had flowers and combs stuck in their hair, or elephant 
ear leaves bound to the sides of their heads. The 
women, naked but for a few beads or wisps of straw, 
came slinking ashore behind the stalking warriors. 
They were all painted, some with scrolls designed across 
their black faces, some with faces painted solid red. 
All the men carried old muskets or heavy clubs, some- 
times both. 

When the shadows of evening darkened we left the 
boat and went to the place of sacrifice. It made a 
grewsome sight. It was completely surrounded by the 
dark jungle; and at one end of it stood what looked 
like a line of grewsome forest ogres. These were tree 
trunks hollowed out through narrow slits in the front, 
and painted to represent the faces and bodies of devils — 
leering faces and gross twisted bodies which seemed to 
writhe in horrible grimaces as the light of half a dozen 
fires played upon them. By each demon tree drum 

The Beast Men 151 

stood a native with a club ready to pound on his " devil- 
devil he sing out," as the drums were called. Two 
other lines of hobgoblin devils, but these not made into 
drums, stretched in a long lane on either side almost to 
the edge of the forest. Facing these, and with a back- 
ground of scowling savages, was a row of great blocks 
of stone, at the head of each of which was raised a slab 
like a tombstone. These were the sacred sacrifice 
blocks where many a human being had once been killed. 

The drums had already begun to boom when we 
arrived, and no one paid us the slightest notice. The 
squatting women in the background never moved so 
much as an eyelash, it seemed; the lines of warriors 
faced silently toward the jungle. Then from the depths 
of the forest sounded a hurricane of howls and screams ; 
and with that out of the blackness there poured a mass 
of savages, grotesque and hideous beyond belief . They 
ran down the lane between the grinning hobgoblins, 
and began to dance in uncouth abandon before the 
stones of the sacrifice of blood. Higher and higher 
rang their shouts, higher than the deep boom of the 
drums, drowning out the wails of the women. This 
was not the dance of men; this was something bestial. 

Suddenly the dancers rushed to one of the line of 
devil statues. By each was standing a man clutching a 
pig or wild forest tusker, squealing and fighting. The 
dancers, gesturing wildly, grasped the animals, some by 
one foreleg, some by the neck, some by the hind legs. 
Then once more around and around they danced, 
striking each other over the heads and shoulders with 

152 The Sea Gypsy 

the screeching pigs. After a time, without plan or 
order, but each man as he reached the height of his 
frenzy, the dancers flung themselves before the blood 
altars. As if by magic other hideous little figures had 
stolen behind these altars, and now we could see they 
were flourishing knives. As the pigs were flung down 
upon the altars they plunged the knives again and 
again into the helpless animals, finishing each with a 
death blow in the throat. 

This was kept up until perhaps two hundred pigs 
were heaped before the altars. When the last pig lay 
dead, the dancers stopped and threw themselves on the 
ground before the fires. Cooking pits had been dug; 
and into these the animals were thrown, covered with 
leaves and yams, and soon the savages were gorging 
themselves like wild beasts. 

We went away, but out on the Wisdom until morning 
we could still hear the booming of the drums and the 
shrill howls of the dancers. 


One evening, a day or two after the yam festival, I 
was sitting with the Stewarts on their porch, looking 
out past the Wisdom toward the grim and threatening 
mountain skyline of Malekula across the bay, when a 
native girl of ten or eleven passed by. Stewart called 
her. As she came limping toward us he said: "I have 
been telling you of the apparent hopelessness of con- 
verting these people to Christianity, but there is some- 
thing that I saw and heard on this very spot a few weeks 

The Beast Men 153 

ago that convinces me that in the end we shall not fail. 
But in order that you may understand the full signifi- 
cance of my story, and in order that you may realize 
that it was a real modern miracle I must give an explan- 
ation of one sentiment in the native life. This little 
girl is my first real explanation." 

He laid his hand on the shoulder of the child, who 
now stood beside him, and spoke a few words. She 
turned her back to us, and Stewart lifted a bandage 
which was bound about her knee, and 1 saw that on the 
under side of the knee joint was a terrible half healed 
burn. The flesh had been burned to the bone, and it 
was evident that the little girl would never do more 
than hobble about again. 

"That was done by the girl's husband," said Stewart. 
"This is her story: When she was three, her father 
accepted a pig as the first payment ; a few months ago 
her husband paid a few more pigs and took her to his 
compound. That was a heavy price, but paid down 
because the child was strong. Sows, you know, are 
more valuable than women on Malekula, for pigs can 
breed seven or eight young ones, while a woman only 

"Now this child's husband only had a few wives to 
do his work, so the slavery of his women was even 
harder than usual, and as this child was young and 
could not yet do full woman's work the man beat her. 
She ran away to her mother. The husband came after 
her, took her back to his compound, and beat her again. 
Again she ran away. This time, when the husband 

154 The Sea Gypsy 

caught her, following the custom of his people, he took 
a red-hot stone as big as a small coconut, placed it in 
the joint behind her knee, and bound the ankle to the 
thigh so as to hold the stone firmly in place. As a 
result, the child is crippled for life. I happened to 
hear of it, and four pigs bought the bride from her mate. 

"Now that is one example of the place of women 
among the people of Malekula. Another custom, 
among some tribes, is to kill the wives when the hus- 
band dies." 

"I have told you of these things so that you may 
understand how little the savages regard the life of any 
woman. If they think thus about their own women, 
how much worse is their attitude toward a white 
woman — for they have never failed to kill all whites 
when they have had the chance. 

"And now to my miracle. As you have heard, there 
is not a single white person on the whole island. That 
is true now. But a few months ago it was not. There 
were two white people there. They were a young mis- 
sionary and his wife, who had just come out to the New 
Hebrides. I had heard, about a year ago, that they had 
landed on the other end of Malekula, but to us, located 
as we are, that is an impossibly long journey, and we 
never saw them. 

"About a month ago, while I was working at some 
papers inside, my wife called to me that something 
was wrong with a canoe in the bay. I went out, and 
saw that a quarter of a mile away a canoe was going 
from side to side, as if paddled by a crazy man, yet it 

The Beast Men 155 

was making some headway toward us. It drew nearer, 
and I saw something which I could hardly believe. 
There in that canoe, with her hair streaming in the 
wind, was a white woman. Just try to imagine your 
surprise, when, if you walked into your library in the 
United States some evening, you were to see a naked 
cannibal with a war club sitting in your best easy chair, 
imagine this, and you will get a comparative idea of our 
surprise when we saw the person in that canoe. It just 
couldn't be a white woman; but it was. 

"My wife and I rushed to the shore, and the mission- 
ary girl, who should have been on her station a hundred 
miles away, crawled out, and fainted dead away. 

"That night she told her story. It is a story which 
has strengthened my faith in our work forever. 

"'The natives had been even more threatening than 
usual,' said the girl, 'and my husband was very much 
worried, when one day he fell sick with fever. He grew 
worse and worse, and kept talking to himself over what 
would happen to me in that terrible spot if he should 
die. Then one night, as I sat beside him — he had grown 
very sick by then and half the time was out of his head 
and talking of the days when we were lovers in Aus- 
tralia — he suddenly became very calm. 'Mary,' he 
said, 'I'm through. I will die soon; but do not worry. 
The Lord has told me he will protect you.' That was 
all. In the morning, he died. 

"'I did not know what to do. What could I do? 
I could not even bury him. I was too weak. But when 
I left his bedside and went out on the porch I saw a 


The Sea Gypsy 

ship and men rowing ashore from it. I ran down to the 
shore to meet them. Oh, they were horrible-looking 
men; you know the kind they call black-birders, who 
buy the natives from their chiefs for work on the plan- 
tations, or steal them if they can. There was not a 
real white man among them ; even the Captain and the 
mate were half-castes. But they buried my husband, 
and took me to the ship. I asked them to carry me to 
Vila, but they only laughed — the Captain had a horrible 
laugh — and they said the wind was bad and they must 
sail around the other side of the island. They did it, 
they did it, and they laughed at me some more when I 

'"And then the Captain was terrible, and when he 
said awful things to me and I would not speak to him, 
he took me in a boat and put me ashore way over there 
on the other side of Malekula. I thought that now I 
must surely be killed or maybe worse, but then, as I 
sat there on the shore and watched that boat go away, 
I remembered my husband's last words, and suddenly 
I felt comforted and I started to walk across the 
island. ,,, 

Stewart stopped his story here and turned to me. 
"Can you imagine it?" he asked. "Can you? Here 
was a young white woman, absolutely alone, in what is 
perhaps the fiercest and most cruel place in the world. 
And she was starting to walk the sixty miles across 
Malekula, the interior of which had never been explored 
by even the boldest of white men, and believe me, 
some brave and able men have died trying, and men 

The Beast Men 157 

just as brave, but perhaps a little more sensible, have 
shirked the adventure. Anyone could have said posi- 
tively that there wasn't one chance in a thousand of 
this girl getting over to the other side; no, not one in 
ten thousand. It was just plain impossible. But — 
well, this is what she told my wife and me, as she sat 
just where you are sitting now: 

"'I had] just started walking,' she said, 'when some 
hideous little black men with guns in their hands, 
stepped out of the bushes. One of them took me by the 
arm, and, saying nothing, led me to a native village. 
He put me in a horrible dark little pen of a house all 
crowded with women and pigs. I did not sleep all 
night, but I kept repeating to myself that my husband 
had spoken with God, and that he had said that God 
had promised to protect me. And nobody bothered 
me all that night; and in the morning the man came 
with two others, and they took me up a trail high into 
the mountains to another village. There they talked 
to another savage, and he put me in another compound 
and the night passed just as before; and again in the 
morning I was taken to still another village. This 
happened five times, until today when the men from 
the last village brought me out on the shore over there, 
and pointed towards this island. And so I came."' 

Stewart stopped his story here. "Now," said he, 
"that was a real miracle. Anybody in the New Heb- 
rides will tell you so. There is no other explanation 
of why that girl wasn't killed and eaten, or violated, 
and made a slave of. I can't possibly figure it out unless 

158 The Sea Gypsy 

she had aid from God. That is the proof I have re- 
ceived that the Lord means us to keep on working here, 
and that we will succeed." 

I made inquiries when I stopped at Vila again, and 
everybody confirmed Stewart's story of the woman. 
There were plenty of religious skeptics, but about this 
instance most of them were willing to give credit to 
some supernatural power. 

On the western side of Malekula there is a spot where 
the natives will come down to answer a trader's signal 
gun. It is in the country of the Big Nambus, as the 
probably fiercest and certainly ugliest of all human 
beings are called. This landing place is a truce ground, 
and here the savages of the different tribes from this 
part of the island, who at other times would cheerfully 
kill and perhaps eat each other on sight, meet fairly 
amicably. And it was to this trading place that the 
Wisdom sailed from Atchin Island. 

We fired no signal gun, but went quietly ashore to 
investigate. While a covering boat stood by, one party 
went up the shore, while Taylor, perhaps somewhat 
too boldly, wandered up a path which wound out of 
sight amidst the heavy forest -like undergrowth. As 
he turned a fork in the trail he came face to face with 
two women, naked and carrying heavy sacks. Taylor 
was startled, but the women jumped into the bushes 
like frightened rabbits and disappeared. Then a man 

The Beast Men 159 

came round the turn. He was not like any other kind 
of man that Taylor had ever seen. He was more like 
a beast than a man. His face was circled by a mat 
of black hair so heavy that it was impossible to tell 
where the hair of the head ended and whiskers and 
beard began. From this matting of hair protruded a 
huge pair of lips, surmounted by a nose through which 
was thrust lengthwise a piece of bamboo. Almost 
touching the bamboo a little pair of bloodshot eyes 
glowered out from a low forehead wrinkled like that of 
a monkey. The body was hairy and something like 
that of a young gorilla. 

In his hand the beast-man carried an old matchlock 
gun. He and Taylor stared at each other in mutual 
amazement for a fraction of a second, and then the 
grotesque savage flung up his rifle and aimed at the 
American. It looked like the finish. But the white 
man took his one chance for life. He grinned; then, as 
if it was the most natural thing in the world, slowly 
took his cigarette case out of his pocket and offered a 
smoke to the beast-man. The savage looked at him a 
long minute, then lowered his gun and took the prof- 
fered cigarette. 

Peering from the bushes, and seeing their lord and 
master apparently at peace with the strange white 
being the women came creeping out. Taylor lifted his 
camera as if to photograph them, but the Big Nambus 
tribesman once more prepared for hostilities, so he de- 
sisted. However, after Taylor had let the savage look 
into the ground glass of his graflex, the fellow permitted 

160 The Sea Gypsy 

him to snap his picture. So the American and the 
Beast-Man of the New Hebrides parted amicably. 

The news apparently went swiftly about ashore that 
some kind of a trading vessel was in the cove, for the 
next morning a number of the Big Nambus tribesmen- 
brothers in hideousness of the man Taylor had en- 
countered — were to be seen on the beach from where 
we watched from the deck of the Wisdom. We decided 
to go ashore to see them, and when I landed there 
stepped forward the fiercest appearing old savage that 
1 have ever seen. He spoke beche-de-mer, and readily 
entered into a conversation with me. I found that he 
was Chief Nggompat, the ruler of the most important 
tribe of the Big Nambus people. We gave him and his 
Minister of War, who always stood rifle in hand at 
the Chief's shoulder, a few gifts of beads and tobacco, 
and so finally persuaded them and several of their 
followers to come aboard. They seemed to be terrified 
during the trip out across the water, but, once they 
were aboard the Wisdom , had a great time investigating 
the deck. 

Everybody aboard crowded around to see the reputed 
cannibals, that is, everybody but Sam and Joe, the 
negro cook and mess boy I had aboard at that time, 
who were afterwards replaced by Chinamen and then 
by Cingalese. "Man, I never see any nigger that 
looked like this here black man. I don't believe he's 
any man at all," said Sam, as he led a retreat toward 
the galley. "Old Sam he stay down below." And he 
did. So did his comrade of color, Joe. 

The Beast Men 163 

McNeil, Taylor, Andy, and Big Johnny decided to 
risk a return visit to Nggompat, and accompanied him 
ashore. He led them for two hours up the mountains 
until they came out of the jungle onto a sort of clearing 
on a small plateau. In the center of yam gardens were 
bamboo houses, twenty feet in width and thirty-five 
to forty feet long. The front of each house was like a 
wide Gothic window and tapering to a narrow width 
at the back. The thatching was at least a foot thick. 
The roofs sloped steeply down almost to the ground, 
and the entrance to the bamboo front was like the door 
to a dog house; it was only about two feet high. The 
house had no windows. It was so dark inside that the 
visitors from the Wisdom could make out little but 
that there were mats on the ground and that yams and 
nuts were hanging about. 

Chief Nggompat took the white men over to the 
compound of his son, Bwilbwilli, but refused to enter, 
for it is an unbreakable law, punished by death, among 
the Big Nambus that no man shall enter the compound 
of another. The Chief's son, a boy of seventeen, proud- 
ly pointed to his eleven wives, squatting in a row in the 
women's compound. Some of them seemed old enough 
to be his mother, and it appeared that the father, in 
setting his boy up in life, had given him a few of his 
own old broken-down wives to make up his lad's retinue 
of eleven. These women were as dirty as the pigs 
which rooted about them. 

In Bwilbwilli 's yard Taylor saw an object on a high 
pole which resembled a fresh human skull. The Chief's 

1 64 The Sea Gypsy 

son, noticing Taylor's interest said, "Finish ki ki (eat) 
man. No ki ki long time — " Perhaps this was true, 
but when the saying was repeated to Black Sam aboard, 
he sniffed. "Dat's one big lie," he said. "Don't you 
think Sam knows cannibals when he sees 'em? Yassuh, 
Cap 'en. Dem black boys would eat you up quick as a 

It may be that Sam was right. 



\V7E wanted to see head-hunters. Head-hunting 
was what the Solomon Islands were noted for, 
and that was the first thing about which I questioned 
the young Irish Captain, V.C., who was their governor, 
when the Wisdom, after a six-hundred-mile cruise, 
sailed into Tulagi, the tiny capital of the islands. The 
governor smiled rather grimly and said: " There are 
plenty of head-hunters here. Taking heads is still the 
national pastime ; but I hope that the big head-hunting 
raids these lads used to pull off are fairly well broken 
up." And he proceeded to tell of the rounding up and 
smashing of the raiding canoes which the British gov- 
ernment had systematically carried on during the past 
twenty years. On the island of Malatia, forty miles 
away, he said there were men called "professional 
killers," who would treacherously club their own 
mothers to death for a string of beads, and he added 
that though the British government had, temporarily 
given up the job of trying to collect taxes or to stop 


1 66 The Sea Gypsy 

tribal fights there, it did "do a bit to put down the pro- 
fessional killer chaps." In fact, on the gallows down 
below the government house the governor had seven 
hanged the next morning. It was a fairly convincing 
proof of his words. 

But up until fifteen years ago it was the custom for 
the strong tribes to set to sea in their great war canoes 
and raid other islands for heads, going sometimes as 
far as two hundred miles across the stormy and treach- 
erous seas. Though we of the Wisdom never saw such 
a raid we had a chance to reproduce one exactly for 
our motion pictures. It happened this way: The 
governor had wrecked his own yacht on a coral reef — 
the uncharted waters of the Solomons are the dread of 
mariners — and so at my invitation he went on his in- 
spection trip through the islands on mine. At Gizo, 
a trading post, during this trip, I met Nicholson, an 
Australian Methodist missionary, and, as the governor 
was along to give permission, Nicholson agreed to 
have the natives on his island of Vella Lavella mimic 
one of the raids which but a short time before 
had made Vella Lavella the terror of the Solomons. 
I took the governor back to Tulagi and then went to 

We anchored off Nicholson's mission, a beautiful 
spot — a little church by the side of a native village, 
sitting a hundred feet above the sea on a small plateau. 
Taylor and I landed on a wide beach, fringed with 
palm trees, and there the missionary met us. As we 
walked through a coconut grove and mounted rude 

Head-Hunting 167 

wooden stairs to the plateau he told me of how he had 
first come there, thirteen years before. 

He and his wife had arrived in Tulagi from Australia. 
Young and eager, they volunteered to go to Vella 
Lavella, where never white folk had dwelt before. 
Their offer was accepted, though it was thought they 
had chosen the death of martyrs. 

The small boat from the trading schooner landed 
them with their few bundles of baggage on the beach 
and then raced back to the ship. They looked about. 
Above, on the plateau, they could see the thatched 
roofs of a village, but neither man, woman, nor child. 
Silence, but for the surf breaking on the coral reefs, and 
the forest cries of birds. It was the kind of silence that 
is more to be feared on the islands than the fierce shouts 
of the spear-rush— a man-made silence. 

The young Australian looked out toward the ship and 
swung up his arm, to show that all was well. He and 
the woman silently watched the vessel sail away, then 
turned and hand in hand walked up the rough path to 
the village. Soon, as if by signal, appeared out of the 
jungle the people whom they had come to teach the 
ways of the white man's God : naked black men, spear 
and stone club in hand; women with babies on their 
bare hips or swung from bark-cloth slings thrown over 
one shoulder; children huddling in the rear. The white 
girl crept close to her husband, not daring to look at 
these fierce head-hunters and cannibals. A little native 
boy walked boldly up to the white man, who smiled 
down at him and patted him on the head. Then a 

1 68 The Sea Gypsy 

squat black man, decorated with many ornaments, 
made a sign — and the menacing circle melted away. 
The young missionary's cool courage had won. The 
boy was the favorite son of a great chief, and "the 
black with all the filigree-work was the chief himself," 
finished Nicholson as we came to the door of his bunga- 

I looked about wonderingly; for here was the spot 
where that scene had taken place only a few years 
before. But now there was this neat bungalow, through 
the open door of which I could see European furniture, 
and near by stood a little wooden church, and stretch- 
ing away from it long rows of neatly kept thatched 
houses. The plateau itself was cleared, except for a 
splendid coconut grove. 

"Not bad," said Nicholson, as he saw my glance. 
"And all due to the chief. He made me taboo. With- 
out his protection our heads would have been among 
the chief ornaments in the skull-house any time in the 
past dozen years." 

But it was only the hundred-odd natives here who 
had become Christianized. Not half a mile away was a 
village where most of the tribe lived as had their 
forefathers. And the coast of all the island was dotted 
with like villages. 

In the cool of the afternoon on the sand outside 
Nicholson's house I had my first meeting with Gau, the 
savage who was to play the leading part in the head 
hunt. He was to represent a Napoleon of the Solomons, 
who, by uniting tribes for the head-hunt, had made 

A Solomon Island Warrior 

Head-Hunting 171 

himself a sort of savage Emperor. As Gau squatted 
on the ground across from me I regarded with curiosity 
this man who a little while ago had been one of the 
fiercest of the head-hunters. 

He was a man of fifty, I should say, about five feet, 
five inches tall, strongly built and well-muscled, but 
fat. He was naked, except for a loin-cloth made of 
tapa-bark. His nose was full-nostriled, and his short 
bushy hair curly and still black. His face was puffy 
and stolid. Only his deep-set eyes showed his remark- 
able intelligence. About his neck were three necklaces 
of shell money, and attached to cords made of native 
vine, a beautiful tortoise-shell circular pendant, two 
inches in diameter, on which were hung three rows of 
human teeth. Around each arm above the elbow were 
ten shell armlets. Fastened just above his right eye 
was his sign of chieftainship, a really magnificent thing. 
It was a flat piece of shell, four inches in diameter, as 
exactly rounded as if machine-made, and beautifully 
inlaid with tortoise-shell in curious and delicate 

At the beginning of our talk, I presented him with a 
knife and a hatchet, which he accepted gravely. Gift- 
making is customary in the Solomons, but a man rarely 
ever accepts without making a return present. I 
received yams, chickens, and bananas aboard ship from 
Gau the next day. He understood well enough my wish 
to see a head-hunt, but I could not make him compre- 
hend what motion-pictures are. There was no combina- 
tion of words in the comparatively few guttural sounds 

172 The Sea Gypsy 

of his language which could convey the meaning. I 
finally resorted to superstition. I told him I had a Magic 
Eye, which could always see again anything it had ever 
beheld, and that what my Magic Eye saw, my followers 
who looked into it when I returned home, could see 
also. Then I said my warriors had heard of the fighting 
ability of his men, and I wished my Magic Eye to see 
for them, that they might learn. 

While awaiting the final preparations I had time to 
learn something of the customs and lives of the natives ; 
for I realized that, if my pictures were to be life size 
and exact, I must study the people themselves before 
the head-hunt was photographed. Like all Solomon 
Islanders, they are deeply religious, or superstitious. 
There are hundreds of taboos, which no native dare 
disobey, for fear of the "devil-devils," to employ the 
same beche-de-mer term as was employed in the New 
Hebrides. There are multitudes of these dread powers 
which punish cruelly the breaking of these laws. 

An understanding of the deeply superstitious nature 
of the natives enabled me to comprehend the reasons 
for their head-hunting. Wolves pull down a moose for 
food; white men shoot game for like cause, or for love 
of the chase; but the Solomon Islanders hunt human 
heads for a spiritual reason. It has to do with mana, 
a mysterious spirit of power, which dwells in both men 
and things in a thousand different forms. By virtue 
of this power, and not by his own intelligence or 

Head-Hunting 173 

strength, a man becomes a great chief or famous warrior. 
If he is killed, it is because his enemy's mana is greater 
than his own. If a canoe has its bottom torn out on a 
reef, it is because it has no wonderful mana to protect 
it. If it carries its warriors safely, it is because its 
mana is great. A certain stone or reef may have a 
mana that will keep an entire tribe healthy or make 
a coconut grove fruitful. All success, all happiness, 
is due to mana. 

Solomon Islanders believe that the more heads a 
man takes the greater his mana. For a powerful chief 
it is imperative that his canoe-house be adorned with 
hundreds of skulls. Then the mana which belonged to 
his victims becomes the property of himself and his 
people. And when the bodies of dead warriors are 
eaten, their mana becomes even more directly a pos- 
session of the feasters. Moreover, there are certain 
ceremonies that require human sacrifice. A war-canoe 
is thought to be without mana unless it is sprinkled 
with human blood and the skull of the sacrifice is kept 
in the canoe-house. Or if a great sickness falls on a 
tribe, there must be human sacrifice to appease the 
angry spirits. 

Outside of this mysterious spirit worship life in the 
wild villages of the Solomons is simply a matter of 
existence. To get food, eat it, sleep, and have children 
— that is life. In this primitive life the women are the 
property of men and do all the hard labor. A girl is 
bought and sold without regard to her personal prefer- 
ence. She goes to the highest bidder. 

174 The Sea Gypsy 

I took a picture representing such a marriage. At 
the beginning it was impossible to make the natives 
carry through their parts. First, I was forced to play 
each r61e myself — be the bride, groom, dissatisfied 
suitor, and father. I found, too, great difficulty in 
obtaining my stars. Most of the pretty girls were 
stupid or afraid. But at last I found one young girl 
who responded readily to instruction. She was viva- 
cious, and after her fashion charming, a savage Mary 
Pickford. We staged the scene, as in life, outside her 
father's house. One suitor brought his gifts of shell 
money and ornaments, but the second threw in a pig, 
and the father, not able to resist this temptation, 
touched the second young man's offering, a sign that 
he had accepted the bargain. The bridegroom gripped 
his girl by the wrist and led her off unresisting. 

He was happy — or would have been, had the scene 
been real — if she was not, for wives mean wealth. 
They can make ornaments and shell money (and it is 
interesting that these savage people use money), and 
cultivate land. When a wife has done enough work, 
then with the products of her labor a man is able to 
buy a second wife. When he has two wives, he can 
more quickly purchase a third, and so on. When a 
Vella Lavella man dies, his wives are killed also, for 
they are considered responsible for their husband's 
health, and his death is therefore due to their neglect. 
Nicholson told me he had done all in his power to 
change this. At the mission are a number of women 
who fled to safety there at the time of the death of their 

Head-Hunting 175 

husbands. In some villages the natives have submitted 
in part to the missionary's demands, and now, instead 
of killing widows, they only require the poor women to 
disfigure themselves, and to give up all ornaments, and 
also, they forbid them the privilege of washing. 

Women are the cause of trouble on Vella Lavella, as 
in our civilization. Petty wars between tribes are 
brought about by the stealing of women. Also, women 
provide an incentive to the young men to work. A 
poor man will hire himself out to work on a plantation 
on some other island for three years in order to obtain 
enough wealth to buy a wife. When he returns, how- 
ever, his ditty-box is usually emptied of its contents by 
his relatives or tribesmen, each one taking a present, 
and he is almost as poor as when he started. Strangely 
enough, he does not resent this. 

The natives of Vella Lavella are good sportsmen. 
As fishermen they are wonderful, but they find little to 
hunt. The only dangerous animal is the alligator, but 
it is never molested by the natives, either because they 
have no weapons with which to kill it or because it is 
taboo. Because of the fear of alligators, villages are 
never built directly on streams. 

The woods are full of bird-life. I made a trip across 
the island to visit a young chief, Osopo. As we trudged 
along the jungle trails, I could hear on every side the 
screeching of cockatoo and parrakeet. Osopo would 
occasionally dart off to shoot pigeons and doves with 
his small bow and arrows. 

At Osopo 's village I had a chance to see the natives 

176 The Sea Gypsy 

in their primitive state. The small, thatch-roofed huts 
had no windows, and the only openings for light and air 
were doors about two and a half feet high and two feet 
wide. The sole furnishings were grass mats. Every- 
body was dirty. Vermin abounded. The natives lived 
from day to day. There was no reserve supply of food, 
except a few bundles of coconut in each hut. There 
was only one meal a day, which seemed to be eaten at 
any time, and at which all gorged themselves. For 
this meal the women gathered taro, yams, and nuts, 
and brought in shellfish at low tide. The men went on 
pig hunts to get meat for their feasts. 

I accompanied them on one of these hunts. They 
stretched a net about a hundred feet long and three 
feet high, made of tough vines, across a clearing. Then 
some twenty men armed with spears slipped silently 
into the woods. I took a station behind the net and 
waited. Soon I heard loud shouting, and three pigs 
with the hunters after them came bursting forth from 
the underbrush. The pigs rushed straight into the net, 
which, being only loosely laid, dropped down, en- 
tangling them in it's meshes. The savages fell on them 
gleefully, tied their legs and carried them back to the 
village. There their squeals were hushed by handfuls 
of banana leaves held tightly over their snouts until 
they smothered to death. They were then cut open and 
their entrails were pulled out. These were thrown into 
the fire for a few moments, and then every man grabbed 
some and began to eat gluttonously, but I made no 
attempt to swallow the morsels that Osopo handed me. 

Head-Hunting 179 

In a trice the hair had been scraped off the pigs, and 
they were placed on red-hot rocks in the center of the 
fire. Long before they were roasted, they were torn 
apart and eaten almost raw. 

Meanwhile the preparations for the head-hunt were 
being finished. From hidden places far back in the 
jungle, war-canoes that had been saved from the 
British punitive expedition were brought out. These 
were magnificent pieces of workmanship, 35 to 50 feet 
long, holding from 40 to 1 00 men, and though without 
outriggers, seaworthy. They were made with three 
planks on each side and two narrow planks forming a 
flat bottom. All the boards had beveled edges and 
were sewed together with cords made from stems of 
vines. The seams were calked with a material some- 
thing like rosin, obtained from a jungle tree. The sides 
of the canoes were beautifully inlaid with pearl-shells 
in fantastic designs. At both stem and stern were 
twelve-foot beaks decorated with conch-shells. At the 
bow, just below the line of shells and close to the water, 
were heads carved of wood, which were supposed to 
watch for hidden reefs. Nearly all the paddles had 
rotted away, and new ones were made out of hard wood. 

When I came ashore on the day set for the head-hunt, 
hundreds of natives were already lying about in the 
coconut grove and on the beach. They had come in 
from the \illages, overland, with their women carrying 
provisions for the stay, or by canoe, and were now 

180 The Sea Gypsy 

camped out in the open, their quarters during the week 
I spent in photographing them. As I walked among 
the men and they closed around me, staring curiously, 
I thought I had never seen a hardier type of fighting 
men. They were taller and blacker than most of the 
Solomon Islanders I have seen and more frank and 
fearless in expression, and they all had teeth stained 
fiercely dark from betel-nut chewing. They were fully 
armed for battle. Most of them had carved spears 
eight feet long, made of hard palm-wood and decorated 
with bands of colored hemp. I asked one, through 
Nicholson, what kind of bones the spear-points were 
made of. He reached down and touched his shin, 
indicating that his was made from a man's shin bone. 
In addition to spears, a number of the warriors carried 
stone clubs, which are called tomahawks by the traders. 
These clubs had three-foot straight handles, inlaid with 
pearl-shells. All the men carried light shields about 
two and a half feet long by ten inches wide, made of 
reeds fastened together by native hemp. They had 
streaked their faces and the upper part of their bodies 
with a paint made of white lime, so that in the dark or 
in the heat of attack they might easily recognize one 
another. All were bareheaded, but a few wore curious 
sunshades woven of fiber. Every man had on all the 
ornaments he possessed; tortoise-shell belts, necklaces 
and armlets. Each chief had his inlaid circular shell 
disc fastened either directly between his eyes or over 
one eye. The Solomon Islander always wears orna- 
ments in war, because he is a firm believer in ghosts, 

Head Hunters Only a Few Years A( 

Head-Hunting 183 

and thinks that his ghost will have the use of all his 
most valued trinkets if they are kept with his skull. If 
he is killed, these treasures are never stolen. The 
natives believe that, if the dead man's ornaments are 
taken away, his ghost will haunt the thief. 

Nicholson was down with fever, nevertheless he 
climbed from his sick bed to aid me, so I was able to 
begin immediately. The natives entered into the 
spirit of the game. But first I gave them small presents 
and a feast of canned salmon and dog-biscuit, a meal 
they vastly preferred to native food. And I promised 
them further presents and feasts if all went well. Food 
was my best card. 

The chief difficulty was to prevent the savages from 
staring into the camera. That " magic eye" fascinated 
thern. But by saying that to look at it was taboo and 
that its mysterious spirit would bring down terrible 
punishment on whosoever stared into it, I was soon 
able to induce them to go ahead as if the camera were 
not there. As the picture progressed, things became 
easier. The hunt ceased to be acting. I am sure that, 
if the savages had not all been under Nicholson's 
influence, my screen production would have ended in 
an actual battle, with heavy casualties. The likeli- 
hood of such an outcome became so apparent that, 
before the fighting began, we had all the bone barbs 
removed from the spears. What we proposed to do 
was merely to feign a repetition of the last famous raid 
on Choiseul Island. 

We called the under-chiefs into conference, and, as 

r84 The Sea Gypsy 

they squatted in a circle on the sand talking earnestly, 
the women prepared food for the voyage, which, if 
actually made, would have been a hundred and fifty 

Gau and his chiefs decided on a plan of attack. Then 
Gau addressed his warriors. It was a wonderful scene, 
but many feet of film were spoiled, because some mis- 
sion men, dressed in shirts and breeches and unarmed, 
were so stirred by the sight of their great chief making 
a war-speech that they crept in among the savage 
warriors to listen to him. I had to stop the cameras and 
drive them away. 

When Gau had finished, the young chiefs spoke, 
working themselves into a frenzy, dancing up and down 
and waving their spears. The warriors answered their 
enthusiasm with savage cries and gesticulations. 
Finally, at a word from Gau, all rushed down to the 
canoes and in a second were making for an opening in 
the reef. The women and children followed to the 
water's edge, waving excited good-byes. The dozen 
men who had been left behind as guards remained silent. 
They stood on the beach and stared grimly and sadly 
at the rapidly disappearing canoes. And the mission 
men, not employed in the picture, downcast and miser- 
able, huddled together — outcasts from the wonder and 
glory of the hunt for heads. 

The handling of the canoes was marvelous. The 
men sat double-banked on thwarts, with the exception 
of the chiefs, who stood. In the stern of each boat was 
a steersman equipped with a big paddle, which he 

Head-Hunting 185 

handled with both hands and feet, and in the bow was 
a stroke-maker, a warrior picked for strength and skill. 
The men kept perfect time, the paddles rising and 
falling rhythmically, in time with a wild chant which 
they sang in a high, minor key. The stroke was about 
fifty to the minute, but every fifteen minutes they 
would change it, make a rapid short spurt and then 
drop back into the regular time. Occasionally all the 
canoes would stop. During the few minutes' rest 
every man chewed betel-nut. And always I could see 
Gau's squat, immovable figure as he stood in the stern 
of the canoe in the lead. 

Gau had chosen a village, miles up the coast, as a 
place to be attacked. Around the houses were built 
three stone walls, two feet thick and five feet high, 
about fifty feet apart. From behind these walls the 
village men could hurl their spears at the unprotected 
enemy without great danger to themselves. A guard 
was usually stationed at the outer wall, and an enemy 
making a surprise attack would have to fight his way 
over two walls before arriving at the main body of 
defenders, who had had time, on account of these 
obstructions, to get their weapons and make ready for 
the battle. 

When the canoes neared the village, Gau directed 
Kavi, one of the older chiefs, with a hundred men, to 
separate from the main party and land on the far side 
of the village. I went ahead in my launch and had the 
camera men ready. 

We came upon an idyllic scene. Women were cook- 

1 86 The Sea Gypsy 

ing around open fires in front of the huts or hunting 
shellfish in the shallows of the blue lagoon; children 
were playing about ; a few men were gathering coconuts, 
climbing the trees with monkey-like agility. Then, of 
a sudden, the war-canoes shot into sight from behind a 
nearby curve in the coast. I could scarcely see the 
paddles flash and dip — so rapid was the stroke. One 
of the women who were fishing looked up and saw them. 
She screamed loudly, and ran for the village. In a 
second there was the wildest disorder. Women and 
children scampered pell-mell for the woods, crying and 
howling. The village men all vanished into the houses, 
but appeared again on the instant, waving spears and 
clubs. All had been informed that it was only play, 
but the sight of those war-canoes filled with yelling 
warriors was too much. 

It was then that Kavi's warriors came pouring out 
of the woods, cutting off escape, and Gau's men, with 
the old chief at their head beached their canoes with a 
rush and ran across the sand like mad. From behind 
the outer wall the village men met them with a volley 
of spears. Gau's warriors poured over the first wall, 
thrusting with their spears and swinging their toma- 
hawks at the outnumbered villagers, who retreated. 
Then both sides lost their heads. They jabbed and 
hammered at one another in deadly earnest, while Gau, 
perched on top on the wall, jumped up and down, 
waving spear and shield, cheering his men on. The 
villagers made a determined stand before the last wall, 
but were overwhelmed. Then Gau and I rushed in, 

Head-Hunting 187 

separating the struggling mob. When order was finally 
brought about, many of the savages were bleeding from 
wounds. It was the most realistic screenfight I have 
ever seen. 

Gau took back a number of captives with him. It had 
always been the custom to take prisoners, if possible, 
breaking their legs if they attempted to escape. Cap- 
tives were considered necessary, so that human sacri- 
fices might be ready whenever the spirits demanded. 
The life of a prisoner in the Solomons was far different 
from what it was in most other lands; he was allowed 
to live freely with his captors, sometimes for years, 
until the fatal day came when a head was necessary — 
then he was killed without compunction. 

I shall never forget the sight of the home-coming of 
the head-hunters. As the canoes appeared in the far 
distance, the women and children came down to the 
shore, waving their arms in greeting. As the canoes 
drew near land, the men began to paddle very slowly, 
lifting the paddles high out of the water with each 
stroke and singing a wild, mournful melody, as if for 
their dead. Then, at the end, they broke into a paean 
of triumph and dashed the canoes almost up to the 
beach with terrific speed. 

Gau had had a number of skulls of his former victims 
brought down from his skull-house in the mountains, 
and these, wrapped in coconut leaves, were brought 
ashore by the warriors. As they stalked up the beach 
between the lines of admiring women, skulls held high, 
one would have thought from their proud appearance 

1 88 The Sea Gypsy 

that they had brought home real trophies of war. A 
great fire was built on the beach by the women, and 
into this the heads would have been cast, if they had 
been newly taken spoils, and left there until the flesh 
had been burned away. Around the fire the fighting 
men danced, singing, while the women sat about and 
watched, their bodies swaying to the music. Then the 
skulls were placed in coconut-leaf baskets and thrust 
on the top of four-foot poles set at regular intervals 
along the beach. Around these once more the wild 
dance swirled. 

And standing outside the circle, leaning on his spear, 
watching, his face, expressionless, was Gau, dreaming, 
perhaps, of the hundred times that all this had been 
reality, or, it may be, of a time when it would become 
real again. 



E7IJI is usually remembered throughout the world as 
the home of a race of fierce cannibals of the South 
Seas. And that was what was in the minds of most of 
the ship's company of our little sea gypsy when one 
morning we sighted the first of the two hundred islands 
of the Fiji group. 

We sailed all of one day past these beautiful islands, 
and the next morning stood into Suva, the capital, on 
the island of Viti Levu. A fifteen-thousand-ton 
steamer and two smaller ships were alongside of stout 
concrete docks on which worked gangs of Fijians — tall, 
dark, strongly made, their masses of bushy black hair 
impossible for any style of hat. Near them were 
swarms of turbaned Hindus, imported from India for 
labor. Ashore, automobiles rolled merrily along well- 
paved streets, lined with concrete stores. At each 
street corner were bareheaded, barefooted, khaki-clad 
Fiji traffic policemen. On the slope of the hill back of 
the town were numbers of fine residences, surrounded 
by gardens and small parks. And we dined that night 


190 The Sea Gypsy 

at an ultra-modern hotel, the best in the South Seas, 
among men and women in conventional evening clothes. 
A Carnegie library on the main street completed the 

We had come to wild, cannibal Fiji. 

But we were soon to find that not all Fiji was the 
same as Suva. Ten days after our landing we sat 
watching a tall Fijian at the steering-wheel of the old 
cabin launch in which we were riding. He held the 
lower spokes of the wheel gripped firmly with his feet 
and moved it dexterously as he stared over the launch- 
house. We were going — Taylor, McNeil, one of the 
camera-men and myself, with our host, Mr. Davis, a 
Suva merchant of lifelong residence in the Fijis — to the 
island of Mbau, the former stronghold of Thakombau, 
most famous of the old cannibal kings, once master of 
most of this part of the Fijis. As we came close to the 
island, we could see on its lee side great slabs of stone, 
placed upright, making a protecting wall. At fifty- 
foot intervals, there were openings into which the war 
canoes once were hauled after raids. As Davis stepped 
out at one of these openings, he stretched his arms 
lazily and said, "About time for a drink." 

At that a huge, handsome, black Fijian, dressed in 
knickerbockers and shirt, but barefooted, stepped for- 
ward, and speaking in a cultured English drawl said, 
"Really, you know, I think that would be an excellent 
idea." It was Ratu Pope Epeli Senilola, grandson of 
King Thakombau. 

A few minutes later, as we sat in his house, a frame 

Son of a Cannibal King 193 

building of hand-hewn timbers set on a rectangular 
stone base, with sides of woven reeds and a thatched 
roof of coconut leaves, he told us the part he and his 
people had played in the world war. 

"We are a race of warriors," he said. "And so, 
when England — to which my father's father ceded the 
Fijis by signing a paper on that very table there — went 
to war with her enemies, I raised a regiment of my 
people. When we came to France, my warriors were 
astounded to find that, instead of fighting, we were to 
do servant duty. However, the Fijians are people 
obedient to their chiefs, and when I, their King, played 
the flunkey cheerfully, they could not complain. 

"But though I acted as a servant there, I am not here, 
as you will see," he said. He called out sharply. A 
man entered, squatted on one of the mats covering the 
coral-pebbled floor, several feet from the King, and 
clapped his hands softly three times, the Fijian sign of 
obeisance to a chief. With a curt nod, the young 
Fijian monarch gave him permission to rise. 

Though shorn by the English of much of his fore- 
father's power, Pope held to his privileges or rank. 
Also he played the part of father to his people. While 
the influenza was sweeping the Fijis some time before, 
he had gone fearlessly among them, personally attend- 
ing the sick, until he himself was stricken. According 
to Fijian law, he owned no land or personal property 
but he had lala right over the services and possessions 
of all his subjects. 

While his villagers were at work preparing for 

194 The Sea Gypsy 

our entertainment, he showed us his immediate do- 
main. In the middle of the village he pointed out the 
remains of an old pagan temple, the foundations of 
which are still intact. Against one of its corner-stones 
only a comparatively few years ago, his grandfather, 
before being converted to Christianity, had had knocked 
out the brain of every male captive and of many a 
female. It was one of the killing methods before cook- 
ing for the feast. It also had the religious significance 
of a sacrifice. The victim's hands and feet were 
grasped by four stalwart executioners, who swung the 
captive back with a long swing, then rammed him for- 
ward with four-man power, the head smashing against 
the execution rock. 

Near this spot stands a small stone church, built by 
the father of the present King in commemoration of 
King Thakombau's conversion to Christianity. The 
royal builder of the monument had a hollow scooped 
out in the old beheading stone, which he placed in the 
church as a receptacle for holy water. But the horri- 
fied missionaries quickly removed it. The rock still 
remains in one corner of the church, however. 

In the afternoon, for our benefit, a canoe race was 
held, in which we rode as passengers. Only in one 
place on the New Guinea coast have I seen canoes 
rigged like these of this part of Fiji. They were out- 
rigger dugouts, whale-backed, some thirty feet long. 
In the center of each canoe was a single mast, to which 
was attached the upper end of a large sail of pandanus 
matting. This sail was fastened on a reversible sprit. 

Son of a Cannibal King 195 

The boat was brought about by the simple expedient 
of shifting the bottom end of the matting from one end 
of the canoe to the other. At either end were sockets to 
hold it in place. The canoes were steered by big nine- 
foot paddles. 

To a sailor these canoes were one of the most inter- 
esting objects imaginable. One small craft had a lone 
man for crew. It was a wonder of trick seamanship to 
see him bring his canoe about simply by grabbing the 
big paddle and the lower end of the sail and rushing to 
the other end of the boat. Sailing to the leeward, the 
canoes skidded the outriggers so that they barely 
touched water and were occasionally lifted high in 
the air. 

At nightfall a feast was to be served in our house. 
Clean mats were first brought in. Then the King 
entered and seated himself cross-legged, facing the 
door. Thereafter no native entered without first fall- 
ing on his or her hands and knees before the King and 
Queen, as well as the rest of the guests. A girl of 
twenty took a seat in the center of the mat. She was 
the King's cousin. She acted as mistress of cere- 
monies. Other girls, bringing in the dishes, handed 
them all to her, and she served us. I had eaten at 
three o'clock, and told the King that I was afraid I 
should be unable to swallow a morsel. But he in- 
sisted that I try the first course, a clear fish soup, served 
in a polished half coconut-shell. I ate that, then two 
more bowls, and then everything else that was served. 
It was the most delicious meal I had in the South Seas. 

196 The Sea Gypsy 

Little black fish, which can be eaten by no one but the 
King and his guests, were served in three forms, 
roasted in leaves, boiled, and crisply grilled. Then fol- 
lowed turtle meat, roasted chicken, yams, breadfruit 
and taro leaves steamed in coconut-milk. There was 
only one Europeanism — coffee was served in cups. 

Dinner over, fifteen girls, their coarse hair brushed 
astoundingly erect and made even blacker than natural, 
if possible, by a preparation of soot, took their places 
in a semicircle for a sitting meke, one of the native 
dances. While they moved their bodies back and forth 
and waved their arms in undulations of the dance, they 
sang, keeping time to the music by tapping their feet 
on the floor. One girl, almost a child, with a high 
soprano voice, would chant the first few notes of each 
verse. Then the others would join in, the movements 
of their bodies illustrating the words of the song, which 
usually was a tale of native life — of hunting, fishing, 
war, love. The tunes were chanted in a high minor key, 
but they bore a suspicious resemblance to certain fami- 
liar missionary hymns. 

As the girls sang, their songs grew more stirring, and 
one by one old warriors of the young King's father 
grouped themselves about the door. Suddenly in the 
midst of a war-song, one of these old men, without a 
word, threw up his hands and pitched across the 
threshold — dead. His heart had given out under the 
passion stirred by old remembrances. The King ac- 
companied the body to the dead man's hut, comforted 
the widow and children and then returned to tell us with 

Son of a Cannibal King 197 

great regret, that because of the four-day period of 
mourning to follow, he would be unable to continue the 
festivities in our honor. 

The Fijians are controlled by a combination political 
theory that to my western mind was almost pure com- 
munism, paradoxically including government by a chief 
with wide powers, who owes fealty to the King-Em- 
peror. This is still the condition in Pope's village of 
Mbau, as we found. 

There is no private ownership of property. If a man 
wishes anything from another, he asks for it and, ac- 
cording to Fijian custom, his neighbor must give it up 
— whether it be pig, sulu (the native single garment 
that hangs from the waist) , or spear. It would appear 
that, under this system, the most industrious beggar 
must necessarily be the richest man, and that the only 
reward for a hard worker is to be able to have more to 
give away than his fellows. The first part of my as- 
sumption is partially true — practically every Fijian is 
an industrious beggar. But his begging is limited, for 
no man looks further ahead then the immediate present. 
If he has food for the day, he is content. I found, on 
the other hand, that my fear that the man who labors 
hard might be robbed of the fruits of his toil by his 
fellow tribesman, was not warranted, for no man in 
Fiji labors as an individual. All work is done in com- 
mon, and the result of the work divided equally among 
all. If a man's house has been burned, he reports to 

198 The Sea Gypsy 

his chief that he needs a new one, and the chief assigns 
a certain number of men to build it. Thus, literally, no 
man can be richer than his fellows, and for that reason 
in the Fijis there is none of the jealousy of wealth that 
exists in more sophisticated communities. 

The tribal chief in these communistic governments 
theoretically owns no personal property. But he is 
considered to own the bodies of all members of his 
tribe and all their possessions. Formerly he had the 
power of life and death. Now, though the British have 
done away with this, he still controls his people's 
property and labor and is their judge and administra- 
tor. The British make him directly responsible to 
them, and when the British resident agent wishes men 
or work, he simply gives an order to the native king 
or chief of the district. I saw some three hundred of 
Pope's men clearing a government road through the 
brush and was surprised to find them working industri- 
ously, without overseers. This was the more amazing 
as 1 had had ample proof of the indolence of the average 

Pope's villages were typical Fijian communistic com- 
munities. The houses were built in regular order, all 
almost exactly alike, rectangular-shaped and thatched 
with straw. They were neatly kept and surrounded 
by well-clipped grass lawns with no rubbish about. 
The interiors were bare except for food, clean-looking 
sleeping-mats and a few spears, cooking utensils and 
fishing-nets. I looked about particularly to see if any 
man appeared to have more than his neighbors. As 

Son of a Cannibal King 199 

far as I could see, Pope's boast that no man was richer 
than another in Fiji was correct. In some of the houses 
there may have been a few more fish or coconuts than 
in others. But in thirty years' wandering in many 
quarters of the globe I have never seen a more equitable 
distribution of worldly goods. 

On the day we returned from Mbau in our launch, 
Pope overheard one of his under-chiefs telling another 
of a large pearl he had found. Without ado, Pope de- 
manded it of the man, who immediately handed it to 
his King. 

' ' Will he not be angry with you ? " I asked. 

"Ah, no," replied Pope. "When we reach home, he 
will come to me and ask a pig or two. And I must give 
them to him." 

"But suppose you refuse?" 

"We never refuse. That is the custom of our people, 
far more unbreakable than any written law you have in 
the United States." 

In Fiji, woman plays no part in government. She is 
simply a worker for man. And, since a Fijian has only 
one wife as a rule, her duties are arduous. The Fijian 
woman catches fish, gathers firewood, makes tapa 
cloth and mats, cooks and rears the children. She has 
no leisure except in her girlhood. Her life is infinitely 
harder than that of the Polynesian women of the 
Society Islands, and in direct contrast with these girls 
she is notably chaste. But not so chaste as in former 
times. This is due in part to a change in custom 
brought about by the missionaries. Formerly men and 

200 The Sea Gypsy 

women were separated into different compounds at 
nightfall. Now they sleep together in one large room 
in the Fijian house. This has caused much immoral- 
ity. This immorality has also greatly increased the 
practice of abortion, which was always prevalent in the 
Fijis, perhaps more so than among any other peoples 
of the world. Despite stringent laws, in nearly every 
Fijian village there are one or more "wise women" 
who know certain savagely efficient herbs for this pur- 

Because of the hard life which the Fijian woman has 
after marriage, she is not anxious to marry young. In 
one of Pope's villages a chief told me that he had be- 
come so worried over the failure of his young women 
to marry, that he had arranged a betrothal dance. The 
young women were lined up on one side of the dancing- 
ground and the young men, dressed in their gayest 
sulus, their bodies glistening with oil, on the other. 
The young warriors danced a dance of love, then at a 
signal stopped suddenly, and each rolled an orange 
across the grass to the feet of one of the girls. Ac- 
cording to the chief's plan, every girl was to marry the 
man whose orange she picked up. Not a single girl 
lifted the betrothal fruit from the ground. 

The marriage of a high chief to the daughter of a 
chief of another tribe, however, is an occasion of great 
rejoicing for the women of the tribe as well as the men. 
As soon as the girl is established in her new home, her 
husband, accompanied by all his clan, returns with her 
to her old home. The visitors have the right to take 

Son of a Cannibal King 201 

everything they wish from the bride's father's villages. 
And they usually make a clean sweep of it. But I was 
told that the losers take their loss cheerfully, picturing 
the day when their turn will come. 

Some days after the dinner with Pope we left Mbau. 
With us went Pope and forty minor chiefs, who were 
going to Suva to present gifts and to hold a kava cere- 
mony in honor of the British Governor, who was 
shortly to leave for England. I found that many of 
these chiefs could speak English. Some had been edu- 
cated at universities in Australia, as had Pope, and 
most were loyal to the British government. It seemed 
hard to believe that they were leaders of a people who, 
only a generation before, had been among the most 
feared of the savage cannibals of the South Sea. 

The one of these chiefs we met at the ceremony for 
the departure of the governor who impressed us most 
strongly was the High Chief Rabici, a dignified middle- 
aged man dressed in European clothing who spoke 
English fully as well as his nephew Ratu Pope. He in- 
vited us to visit him on the beautiful island of Taviuni, 
the Garden of the Fijis, over which he rules as governor, 
though his father bore the title of King, as Ratu Pope 
still does among his people. 

We sailed the Wisdom to Taviuni with the High Chief 
aboard, and landed on the island. After luncheon 
with this son of a Cannibal King in his modern bunga- 
low, which was surrounded by a lovely garden, we de- 

202 The Sea Gypsy 

scended to a village below, where the High Chief said 
he would entertain us in exactly the same fashion as 
would have his forefathers, "except for one thing' ' he 
added with a smile. We smiled, too, for we knew what 
he meant. No human steaks would be brought from 
the oven. 

We took seats, Taylor and I, on either side of the 
High Chief on a place half way up the slight slope of a 
small natural amphitheater. The High Chief and we 
Americans were the only persons in European dress. 
Chiefs of lower rank sat, according to their degree, at 
our sides. Facing us was a huge wooden bowl, carved 
out of a single log, and toward this great bowl marched 
in solemn procession a group of warriors bearing a big 
kava root. A second group took the root, cut it up 
and pounded it into a fine mass, then poured it into the 
ceremonial bowl. The water to mix with the root was 
borne by still another group, who carried two big hol- 
low bamboos, about eight feet tall. 

When the water had been poured in, the local chief, 
who was sitting by the bowl, strained the liquid by 
dragging a bunch of green bark fiber through it. He 
repeated this a number of times, each time passing the 
strainer to an attendant beside him, whose duty it was 
to shake and return it. Then when the Chief was at last 
satisfied that the kava was free of sediment he filled 
half a coconut shell and, with a deep bow, passed it to 
the High Chief Rabici. 

Rabici solemnly poured a little of the kava on the 
ground, raised the coconut shell cup and in a loud voice 

Son of a Cannibal King 203 

called out ' ' Bula-loloma " (life-love), and drank the cup 
to the dregs. Then, with a single gesture, he flung the 
cup from him and sent it spinning like a top across the 
ground to directly in front of the kava bowl. The en- 
tire assembly began to clap their hands in loud ap- 
plause. After this everyone else drank in order of 
rank, giving us, as guests, the precedence. 

Now came a surprise. We had often heard of the 
sacred custom of the presentation of the whale's tooth. 
Indeed we had seen the assembly of Chiefs at Suva give 
one to the departing British Governor, but we also 
knew that the tooth of the whale was given only on im 
portant occasions and then by High Chiefs to others of 
equal rank. Imagine our surprise, therefore, when 
Ratu Rabici suddenly produced the finest whale's 
tooth I had seen in Fiji, and, with a very courteous 
speech, gave it to me, while his nephew handed a 
smaller one to Taylor, saying "An ancient tabua as a 
token of friendship." 

But this was only the beginning of our reception, for 
as the whales' teeth were presented a hundred warriors 
swung into the glade. They were covered with leaves 
and flowers, their bodies glistened with oil and their 
faces were painted with red streaks. Each carried a 
huge war club in one hand, a big yam in the other. 
At their head was a young chief, dragging a train of 
tapa cloth seventy-five feet long. Behind the warriors 
walked fifty young women, likewise covered with 
flowers, and each wearing a brand new skirt of tapa 

204 The Sea Gypsy 

The girls moved to one side and began to chant the 
ancient song which once sent the cannibal warriors of 
Fiji out to get human meat for their ovens. As they 
sang, the men began to dance, all moving in perfect 
unison. The dance grew faster and faster but the war 
clubs all rose and fell together as the shining, flower- 
bedecked bodies of the dancers swayed back and forth. 
Suddenly, moving like one man, they all dropped to the 
ground. Then the girls took up the dance, telling by 
their postures and songs the story of our visit. As the 
last note of their song died away they came forward and 
passing by us one by one laid their tapa cloth skirts at 
our feet, while the men brought forward gifts of turtles 
and yams. Custom required that we return these 
presents, which we did, after which the dancers and 
guests and Chiefs alike gathered about for a great 

Except for the dress of the High Chief, who still sat 
at our side and the sound of his cultivated English all 
this might have taken place in the old Fiji of cannibal 
days. Modern Suva seemed a hundred years away. 



rVEN the crew of a gypsy craft can feel a thrill to 
realize that they are heading for a lonely island 
group over which flies the flag of their own country. 
Everybody of the afterguard of the Wisdom was on 
deck to catch the first glimpse of the iron-bound coast 
of American Samoa. 

As we approached we saw a shallow undulation of the 
shore-line. We sailed on into this and found ourselves 
in a curving bay; then, turning to the left through an 
entrance like the neck of a bottle, we came into the 
wonderful harbor of Pago Pago, which is big enough to 
hold the entire American Pacific fleet. It is really a 
submerged crater, and the mountains that surround it 
give perfect protection against the hurricanes of the 
South Pacific. 

The mail steamer had just preceded us into the har- 
bor, and beach and dock were crowded when we came 
ashore in my launch. Big, fine-looking native men and 
women, almost pure Polynesian, were loaded down with 
bundles and baskets full of fans, model canoes, bananas 


206 The Sea Gypsy 

and pineapples, with which to catch the tourists. Scat- 
tered among them were a number of fita-fitas, Samoan 
soldiers who now serve under the American flag, in the 
only place on land south of the equator where it flies. 
These soldiers were barefooted and wore red turbans, 
white navy undershirts and lava-lavas, short native 
skirts of black with red borders. 

I called on the Governor, Captain Waldo Evans, 
U. S. A., and he invited me to dinner that night. After 
dinner we sat on the big veranda on the second floor. 
The scene was bewitching: the wooded mountains out- 
lined in the soft light of the full moon, myriads of stars, 
the dark bay with the twinkling lanterns of the boats, 
and from the little native town below the sound of a 
chorus singing some song of love. But notwithstand- 
ing the beauty of the night and the charming courtesy of 
our host, there was a hint of melancholy there. We 
later found the reason. Not long before, for the first 
time since the Americans had taken charge, trouble had 
been stirred up among the natives by a white lawyer 
from Honolulu. And shortly before the arrival of the 
U. S. S.S. Kansas with an investigation committee, the 
American Governor committed suicide because of worry 
over this problem. Captain Evans, the head of the in- 
vestigating committee, was appointed governor. In 
dealing with agitators and with unrest among the na- 
tives, he was kind, but firm. There had been bitter 
personal tragedy, but the prestige of the American 
naval regime had not been destroyed. 

The Department of the Navy has indeed done won- 

America's Happy Isles 207 

ders for American Samoa. Natives do not die of 
white men's diseases there. An American hospital 
with naval doctors and trained nurses has been es- 
tablished. All inhabitants receive free medical treat- 
ment. They are inoculated against smallpox and 
protected by quarantine against diseases from outside 
sources. When the United States took over the 
islands, the population was 5,679. Now it is 8,058. 
And that is not immigrant increase. There are only 
180 whites on the islands. The United States has not 
attempted to force its form of civilization on the people. 
In Tutuila and Manua every effort is made to have the 
natives, even though they are "Christianized," live ac- 
cording to their old-time customs. The bringing in of 
sawn timber is forbidden. European clothes are not 
put on brown bodies. The import of liquor is banned. 
But the United States has done far more than simply 
attend to the health of the natives. At the end of the 
first two years of occupation the chiefs asked that the 
government take over the business of selling their copra, 
the most important form of wealth. Now, every year, 
the government receives open bids from all parts of 
the world for the produce of the islands. It sells at the 
highest possible price, and the profits go direct to the 
natives. The purchase of land by whites is not per- 

On returning from Captain Evan's dinner, I was 
puzzled to see a long string of lights curling out from 
the stern of my yacht like a great snake. I ran my 
launch up to them and saw that the snake was made up 

208 The Sea Gypsy 

of about fifty native canoes, tied to one another, and 
that the first was fastened to the Wisdom. On each 
canoe was a light made of leaves dipped in kerosene and 
thrust out from the boatside in a wire basket. The 
Samoans were fishing. It was a curious performance. 
They were casting with little pieces of cotton for bait, 
and mackerel were biting at them as trout take flies. 
On the other side of the boats men were fishing with 
hand lines baited with small mackerel. Big fish, ten 
to twelve pounders, would strike at these and be hauled 

I put my cot on the poop and for a long time watched 
the native fishermen by the light of the moon. Just as 
I was dozing off, a canoe came alongside, and two smil- 
ing natives carried a big tub of fish on deck, saying, 
"For Captain." One of these chaps came aboard the 
next day with his wife and brought me other presents. 
I tried to give him something in return. Tears came 
into his eyes. "Master Captain," he said, "you make 
mistake. I no want trade. I like you." I tried again 
to make him accept something. "No, no, Master 
Captain," he said, "I no boy. I man, I got heart same 
as white man." 

A day or two later Captain Evans invited me to go 
with him in his barge on a malanga, a visit to a native 
tribe. With the natives a visit means a trip from place 
to place. At each spot the native host is obliged lav- 
ishly to entertain his guests, who usually stay until 

America's Happy Isles 209 

they have eaten everything good on hand and then 
move on to another victim. We contented ourselves 
with one visit. We went to see the chief of Aua village, 
at the foot of Rainmaker. 

At the edge of the palm grove on the beach, the chief, 
with twenty under-chief s behind him, came to meet us. 
He was a big man, heavy-jowled and three-stomached, 
with a headdress of horsehair. He wore with dignity a 
naval officer's old white coat and a white lava-lava. 
We shook hands gravely with him and then with his 
under-chiefs, and they escorted us to the village, where 
some three hundred natives were waiting to meet us. 
As we walked along, one of the officers whispered to me 
that the chief had been opposed to the government the 
year before, but now that Captain Evans had put an- 
other chief to breaking rocks along the roads, he had 
thought better of his attitude. At any rate, he gave us 
a royal reception. 

It began as usual with the kava ceremony, for which we 
all sat cross-legged on the edge of a clearing in front of 
the chief's house. Six men dragged on a kava root as 
big as a young oak tree. At the kava-drinking the 
commanders and lieutenant commanders were served 
before Mrs. Evans, though she was served before the 
lower-grade officers. The natives are as stiff on preced- 
ence as the royalty of a small German principality. 
After the kava ceremony came innumerable speeches. 
Then drums began to beat, and tw^o girls came running 
and jumping before us, followed by the people in line, 
bearing gifts — rugs, grass mats, tapa cloth, chickens, 


The Sea Gypsy 

pigs, eggs and coconuts. As each man came up, he bowed 
almost to the ground and laid his gift at Captain 
Evan's feet. The attitude of the women was even 
more humble. 

Dinner was served in the chief's house, built like the 
dwellings of the other natives, but somewhat larger. 
Instead of being in orderly rows as in Fiji, the houses 
were placed quite irregularly. They were round, about 
one hundred feet in circumference, with the domelike 
roofs of thatched palm or coconut leaves resting on up- 
rights four feet apart. The walls were made of plaited 
coconut-leaf curtains, which could be rolled up so as to 
give good ventilation. The floors were laid with stones. 
The interior of each house was one large room, with no 
furniture except rolls of tapa mats. The Samoans do 
not sleep crowded against each other. At nightfall a 
number of native-woven mosquito-nettings are set up 
about the beds of tapa mats with hard bamboo pillows, 
one for each member of the household. One of the 
peculiarities of the Samoan house is that it is made to 
be moved. The top can be lifted off the uprights and 
carried away in four sections without injury. Houses 
are sometimes given as wedding gifts. 

The house builders are a separate guild. The trade 
descends from father to son. From the head of a 
family the carpenter receives his order for a house, and 
together with his apprentices he begins to work, with- 
out any discussion of payment. If he is dissatisfied, 
he simply leaves his work unfinished. Professional 
ethics forbids any other carpenter to complete the work. 

Americas Happy Isles 211 

And the house remains unbuilt unless the stingy man 
by double gifts and prayers can persuade his carpenter 
to go on. 

Our meal in the chief 's house was a great feast. The 
only peculiar food was palolo, a sea-worm which is 
caught on the surface of the ocean at sunrise. It lives 
in the barrier reef, and comes to the surface in the night 
of the last quarter of the moon in either October or 
November. Afterwards in the clearing where the 
kava ceremony had taken place the villagers give siva- 
siva dances. The first one was given by thirty young 
men clad only in lava-lavas. Their hair was covered 
with headdresses of horsehair. Their bodies were 
shiny with coconut oil, and the play of their muscles 
glistening in the sunlight as they danced in perfect uni- 
son through the most difficult figures, was beautiful. 
The only touch of the ludicrous came from the black 
moustaches painted on their faces. 

At their head was a beautiful young girl, the taubo 
of the tribe. The taubo maiden is chosen by the heads 
of the families to represent the tribe as almost a sort of 
deity on all great occasions. Formerly she led the war- 
riors to battle. Now, as then, she leads them in the 
dance. Her virtue is the tribe's honor. She cannot 
marry without the consent of the council composed of 
the heads of all the village families, though her father 
be chief. The price paid for her by the chief of an- 
other village is very great, and the mats, houses, 
canoes, and pigs are divided among the people of her 
village. When this taubo girl of Aua danced lightly 

212 The Sea Gypsy 

out at the head of the men, there was a gasp of admira- 
tion from the whites. She was perhaps eighteen and 
perfectly formed. Only a short, light skirt of leaves 
covered the grace of her body. A string of small red 
beads hung from her neck, just touching her rounded 
breasts. Not even her huge headdress of human hair 
and ornaments could spoil her loveliness. She was a 
vision of pure delight. 

The dance was tremendously complicated; yet not 
in a single instance did one of the dancers miss a step, 
though the tempo of their graceful movements changed 
a dozen times in a minute. The dance told the story 
of a warrior's life. He took his bride; he fought his 
enemy; he landed a canoe through the breakers; he 
speared fish — these and a hundred other things. We 
could understand no word of the accompanying songs; 
yet so expressive were the dances that we made out the 
stories they told. 

The Samoan native government, I discovered during 
my four weeks' stay at Pago Pago, is based on a patri- 
archal communism. The head of the family has abso- 
lute power over his group. To the family belong his 
brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren, and also 
many children by adoption. The heads of the village 
families elect a village chief ; the village chiefs, a district 
chief; and the district chiefs, a high chief. Though 
chieftainship often descends from father to son, this is 
not always so; and if a chief becomes obnoxious, he 

A Girl of Samoa 

America's Happy Isles 215 

may be removed. Pride of family is very strong among 
men of noble blood, and the Samoan language is lavish 
of high-sounding titles. 

Within the family there is a communistic idea of 
property. The men fish, build canoes and make copra 
for the common use of the family; the women make 
mats and cook for the same unit. As the families are 
large, extending to distant and complicated relation- 
ship, the lazy man benefits. This system also results 
in shameless begging. It is quite all right for a man to 
ask anything he wishes from any other member of the 
family, and impossible that he be refused. 

The life of a Samoan woman is pleasant. She is 
neither overworked nor savagely treated. From her 
earliest childhood she is trained in the intricacies of the 
siva-siva, and all her life the dance is a source of pleas- 
ure to her. Samoan women will always dance for you 
if you ask them, and they show by their smiles and 
songs how much they delight in granting the request. 
In their girlhood they deck themselves with flowers and 
garlands of leaves and are fond of coquetry but, unlike 
their Polynesian sisters of the Marquesas and Society 
Islands, they are chaste. 

Before the coming of the Americans with new medical 
theories, the life of an infant was doubtful, and even 
now the old customs are carried out in some villages, it 
is said. The new-born child was laid on its back, and 
three flat stones were placed around the head. To 
make the baby beautiful the family thought it neces- 
sary to flatten the forehead and nose. Nothing is 

216 The Sea Gypsy 

uglier, they feel, than our hideous, pointed "canoe- 
noses." The baby was fed with filtered coconut-juice 
for three days, while a "wise woman" tested the 
mother's milk. Often the child died. The birth of a 
child is the occasion for a feast. The father's man 
friends bring presents which they give to the mother's 
woman friends, and vice versa. 

Children are carefully trained. The mother takes 
charge of the daughters, and the father, of the sons. 
The Americans have established schools, and many of 
the younger generation now speak English. Both 
girls and boys are anxious to be recognized as women 
and men. A girl becomes a woman at marriage ; a boy, 
when tattooed. This custom is usually observed when 
the lad is sixteen. It is a severe operation. The boy 
does not face it alone. He gathers a half dozen friends 
of like age, and all go together to the tattooer who, like 
the housebuilder, is a member of a very select profes- 
sion. The tattooer takes his needle, made of human 
bone, dips it into a composition of candlenut, ashes and 
water, puts it against the skin and raps the point in 
with blows from a mallet. When the boy can no longer 
stand the pain, another takes his place. The process 
requires about two months. At the end of that time, 
the boy is tattooed from waist to knee. 

Shortly before we left Pago Pago, Flag-Raising Day, 
the anniversary of the first unfurling of the Stars 
and Stripes over the islands, was celebrated. The 
flag-raising was solemn and impressive. On the parade- 
ground, a beautiful stretch of green fringed with coco- 

Americas Happy Isles 219 

nut-trees, the American naval officers in crisp white 
uniforms were grouped around the flagpole. Then 
came a section of blue-jackets and a company of fita- 
fitas. Farther back among the trees were the na- 
tives in gala costume. When the American flag went 
up to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner," played 
by the fita-fita band, not only the whites but the thou- 
sands of natives stood at attention. Next, the 
Governor and other officials made speeches. The 
championship contests followed. Pago Pago was 
crowded, for people had come from all over the group 
to take part. All the chiefs were there with their best 
dancers and boat-crews and cricket-teams. The after- 
noon began with coconut-opening contests for the men 
and basket-making for the women, and it ended with 
foot-races and cricket. The cricket-match lasted two 
days. The most exciting event of the entire festival 
was the long-boat races. The barges used were double- 
banked and had thirty-six " crack" oarsmen to a crew. 
A week later we sailed from Pago Pago with regret. 
It had been good to find that the islands of American 
Samoa, were, in truth, the "happy isles." 



CVERYBODY aboard the Wisdom had but lately 
read O'Brien's tales of the South Seas, and I think 
most of the younger men aboard had visions of beauti- 
ful island girls swimming out to meet us, when we 
sighted at dawn Hiva-oa, the easternmost island of the 
Marquesas. Dead ahead, a mountain jutted up out of 
the sea, grey in the early morning light. As we ap- 
proached, the sun swooped up, the sea turned from 
black to purple, and the grey mass ahead hardened into 
a series of mountain tops with sloping walls of dark 
green foliage. 

Then we dropped anchor in a little half- moon bay 
on the north coast — a gem of emerald beauty, tranquil, 
unspoiled. My crew crowded the forward rails, wait- 
ing for the canoes full of joyous natives, for the swim- 
ming girls with their flower-decked hair. 

On the shore, no sign of life. Half an hour we 
waited. Then we saw a single little outrigger canoe 
heading toward us. It floated against the yacht's side. 
Three brown faces, sickly and drawn, one smallpox 


Lepers— and Women— and Fish 221 

scarred, stared up at us. The legs of the man steering 
were hideously swollen. Elephantiasis. 

"What place is this?" we asked in French. The 
bloated man lifted his face listlessly. 

"A leper village," he replied. 
We sailed from here to the village of Atuona, the 
capital of Hiva-oa, a small group of wooden shacks and 
galvanized iron roofs. Its population is made up of 
some three hundred natives, a few half-breeds and 
Chinese, the French governor, gendarmerie and a 
priest. It lies on a little bay at the bottom of a great 
half crater of a volcano, the other half having broken 
away ages ago and slid into the sea. On the inner side 
of the crater a lovely garden of green, splashed with 
multitudinous gorgeous flowers and huge boulders, has 
grown up. Everywhere coconut, mango, breadfruit 
and orange trees, and innumerable waterfalls make the 
scene strangely beautiful. 

But something has been twisted out of shape in na- 
ture's scheme. At every turn I saw rotting thatched 
roofs, villages not dying, but dead. Occasionally girls 
and men would pass with something of the ancient 
beauty of the race, but most of them were thin and 
sickly. The Marquesan race has dwindled from over 
a hundred thousand to less than two thousand in a 
century. There was no doubt of what I had so often 
been told. In another few years it will have disap- 

"And then," I asked myself, "what will become 
of these magnificent islands? Will they turn into 

222 The Sea Gypsy 

deserted gardens of loveliness?" I thought of the 
slums of great cities, children by thousands, hollow- 
cheeked, starved for air and sunshine. Why could they 
not be carried here? But all too clearly it came to me 
that in these seductive islands no white man has ever 
done hand labor. He may become a master, and fail- 
ing that, a beach-comber — but a worker, never. This 
is not a white man's land. 

I came to the outskirts of Atuona, where, on marshy 
ground, a group of a dozen shacks sprawled — the 
Chinese colony. I stopped in the tiny trading store of 
Chang, an old Chinese who had lived long in San 
Francisco, to ask a drink of water. In the rear room I 
heard the clatter of pans where his native wife was at 

"Chang," I asked, "do you like it here?" 

"Yes, Atuona good," he said. 

1 ' And your children ? ' ' 

Gravely he walked to the door. He pointed out 
toward the coconut groves. "My sons half -Chinese. 
They no play. They like 'urn work like hell ! " he said. 

That was the answer to the problem. The Chinese ! 
Bred to labor, immunized by a hundred epidemics from 
the diseases whose lightest touch is fatal to the Mar- 
quesans, these tremendously vital Chinese have im- 
parted to their half -Asiatic sons the capacity to work 
industriously in a land where the natives have played 
through all time. 

Here at Hiva-oa, Louis, fat, jolly, half -Portuguese % 
half-Tahitian, and Philip, lean, quarter-breed French- 

Lepers— and Women- -and Fish 223 

man, two rival traders, and I were sitting under a rude 
canvas awning on the deck of Louis's 8o-foot trading 
schooner. The boat was abominably dirty. Cock- 
roaches and copra-bugs swarmed everywhere. But 
the two trading captains, undisturbed and happy, 
bragged to each other of how each had warned chiefs 
against the other as a cheating scoundrel. I think 
both spoke the truth. 

Then said Philip : " Why don't you sail for Papeete, 
Louis? You have plenty of copra aboard." 

"My engineer's mother — she die Thursday. I wait 
for her to die," he answered. 

Philip nodded his head comprehensively. But I 
thought a moment. "This is Monday, Louis," I said; 
"how do you know she is going to die on Thursday?" 

Louis explained that natives seem to see death com- 
ing from afar off. One day a woman will appear quite 
well. Then she will announce that on a certain day, 
perhaps a week or more later on, she will die — and die 
she does. Superstition, self -hypnotism, call it what 
you will — she dies. 

But I was skeptical, and on Thursday, with most of 
my crew, at Louis's invitation, I went to the women's 
village. The grave was dug, the relatives and friends 
were all there — and the woman who was to die was 
walking calmly among them. She insisted that the 
burial feast be held anyhow. The meal was cooked in 
a large, home-made tireless cooker — a pit some five 
feet in diameter by two feet deep, dug in the earth near 
a stream. The women had been to the mouth of the 

224 The Sea Gypsy 

stream with nets and had brought back baskets of 
fresh shrimps. A half-dozen pigs had been killed. A 
number of chickens had been put to death in the pecu- 
liar way of the islands. A woman pulls out one of the 
large feathers from the fowl that is to die and thrusts it 
sharply into the back of the chicken's neck. The luck- 
less chickens had been cooked over separate fires, 
and their meat shredded away from the bones. Green 
taro leaves were cut up, mixed with the chicken meat 
and laid in baskets of green banana leaves. On these 
baskets was squeezed the milk of coconuts. Then 
breadfruit was peeled with a conch-shell and the 
shrimps were enfolded in leaf baskets. 

All these delicacies — pigs, shrimps and chicken — 
were laid on a grate made of stalks from green coconut 
leaves, which had been placed on the hot rocks in the 
bottom of the pit. This layer was then covered first 
with banana leaves, next with mats of burau leaves, and 
finally with damp earth. Every hole which emitted a 
jet of escaping steam was carefully plugged. In an 
hour the earth was taken off, and a delicious meal 
served us on leaf dishes. By each plate was a self -filled 
cup made by cutting away the top of a green coconut. 

First the men ate; then the women; then the dogs; 
and finally the pigs. All stuffed to the utmost. And 
over the entire funeral feast presided the woman who 
was to have died that day ! We thanked her, as hostess, 
and went away on the path leading past her open grave. 

She died the following Monday. 

From the Marquesas, we sailed to Tahiti where, one 

Lepers— and Women— and Fish 225 

night at a dinner at Papeete, the capital of the Society 
Islands, I was seated beside a beautiful woman. Gown, 
slippers, manners seemed to mark her as a French 
woman of delicate training. She was a Tahitian, the 
Princess Tekau, direct descendant of the old Tahitian 

A week later, I sailed with the princess, her cousin, 
and Warren Wood, a former California yachtsman, and 
his mother, for Morea, an island near Tahiti. Here, to 
the natives, this princess, though divested of all power 
by the French, was still their queen. At her order, a 
hundred girls and men danced the hula-hula and a great 
feast was prepared — raw fish in lime-juice sauce, 
steamed crawfish, breadfruit with coco-cream sauce, 
barbecued young pig, baked taro and bananas, and a 
pudding made of arrowroot and dried bananas. But 
the greatest of all the delicacies was heart-of-palm 
salad, called the "thousand-dollar salad," because 
made from the heart of the leaf-cluster of a coconut- 
tree eight years old. To get it the tree must be de- 

At dinner in town the week before, the princess was a 
perfect European. Today, she was a princess among 
her own people — thoroughly loyal to them, thoroughly 
proud of them. She stuffed her fingers in her mouth 
with the food and drew them out with a loud sucking 
noise; and then looked at me and laughed. 

"Make lots of noise, Captain," she bantered com- 
mandingly. "They won't think you are enjoying 
yourself unless you do." I obliged. 

226 The Sea Gypsy 


Jack London visited Bora Bora many years ago in 
the Snark and called it The High Seat of Abundance. 
So, too, we found it. Its chief also apparently finds it 
the same, for when we anchored off the little village of 
Viatape a canoe came out to meet us, and a great round 
grinning face followed by a three hundred pound body 
came climbing over the side. We hadn't time to re- 
cover from our astonishment when another face and 
body just as big followed the first. Chief Tetaunimar- 
ama and his twin brother had come to bid us welcome. 

Now on other islands of this part of the South Seas 
they danced what they call hula-hula, but you must go 
to Bora Bora really to see it. The Chief invited us to 
attend a dance that night. The signal for dancing was 
given by the French gendarme who is the real ruler of 
the merry island. He hung out a lantern in front of 
his little bungalow that night, and soon fifty-odd vil- 
lage boys and girls came hurrying onto the green stretch 
of ground in front of the gendarme's house. In their 
hair were thrust white flowers, their brown bodies shone 
through their light white waists, while loose scarlet 
pareus dropped to their knees. The moon shone 
brightly, and the light from burning bundles of dry 
leaves flickered across the dancing ground. The na- 
tive band, made up of a tin pan and a home-made 
drum, began to play, and the boys and girls to hula- 
hula. And how they danced. It is worth while sailing 
across the Pacific to see the youths and maidens of 
Bora Bora dance just once. They danced for three 

Lepers— and Women— and Fish 227 

hours, and then, hot, tired and happy strolled off into 
the moonlight — in pairs. 

But if the hula-hula is worth making an ocean 
journey to witness, so too is the fish drive of the island. 
There is nothing else quite like it in the world that I 
know of. One was given for the Wisdom, for our visit 
was a time of festival, as only once in a great while do 
ships stop at Bora Bora, and then only island traders. 

Nature has given the islanders a special trap for the 
drive. The entire island is surrounded by a reef, mak- 
ing a lagoon about a mile and a half in width running 
completely around the island. At one point inside this 
reef and half a mile from shore there is a miniature atoll 
of coral, eighty feet in diameter, and three feet across 
at the mouth. The outer barrier reef is connected with 
one side of the mouth of this natural trap by a coral 
formation, and it is the trick of the natives to drive 
the fish against this and then on into the miniature 

There was a great commotion on shore the morning 
set for the drive. There was a blowing of conch shells, 
and shouts of the happy fishers. There was dancing 
and singing as they waited for the tide to go down. 
Then a native missionary prayed for good luck, and at 
a given signal a hundred canoes darted out together 
from the shore. I accompanied the chief. The canoes 
were filled with men, women and children all in their 
Sunday best, scarlet pareus, and palm-leaf hats bound 
about with garlands of fresh flowers. As the canoes 
drew near the place of the drive the women pluged 

228 The Sea Gypsy 

into the water, Sunday clothes and all, each carrying 
a big mat. Children and women for whom there had 
been no place in the boats came wading out to join 
them. Standing anywhere from knee to neck deep 
they formed a line opposite to the rock palisade and 
began to weave their mats together. In half an hour 
they had thus formed a natural fence, which they held 
under water and against their legs. This fence and the 
rock palisade made an inverted funnel leading to the 
trap mouth. 

It was now the work of the men to drive the fish into 
that funnel. 

In the canoes they had paddled out and formed a wide 
semicircle facing in toward the trap. In the bow of each 
canoe stood a man holding in his hand two flat stones 
fastened to thirty feet of light rope. The leaders of the 
drive rode at the ends of the semicircle carrying red 
flags. The leader at the right waved his flag; and, at 
this, the men in the boats, shouting wildly, began to 
paddle forward. At the same time the stone throwers 
heaved their rocks as far as they could in front of them 
and into the water, the rocks clashing together as they 
struck. The effect on the fish, which seemed to throng 
the lagoon, was soon noticeable. They began to jump 
madly and, driven on by the sounds of the stones 
thrashing together, they moved shoreward in excited 

The canoes came steadily in, always keeping the fish 
before them, changing the direction of the drive by 
directions given the flag wavers. As the drive ap- 

Lepers— and Women— and Fish 229 

proached the funnel, the women stirred up the water 
by moving their legs back and forth. This frightened 
the fish, who were darting against the mats, out again 
into the passage. 

The canoes came up to the outer line of the funnel, 
and the water within literally churned with thousands 
of fish. At that the outer end of the line of women 
began to turn slowly in. With a rush they finished the 
circling movement, and with their mats completely 
covered the mouth of the atoll trap. 

There was a silence as the native preacher gave 
thanks once more. When he finished, the fat chief 
lifted his hand, and pandemonium broke loose. Every- 
body tried to jump into the trap at once — men with 
spears, and women and children grabbing the strug- 
gling fish in their arms. Before I could realize it a 
score of canoes had been filled with what seemed every 
kind of fish under the sun. But only enough were 
taken ashore to supply two feasts, then the mouth 
of the trap was opened and the rest allowed to escape. 

We were the guests; the fish were ours; but happily 
ours only in name, and they were cooked ashore at the 
two great feasts that were given us there. 

When we left Bora-Bora twenty canoes came out 
bearing gifts. They piled the decks of the Wisdom to 
overflowing. Our departure resembled so greatly that 
of the Snark that I cannot forbear to quote London's 
description of it : 

"But the abundance ! There was so much of it. We could 
not work the Snark for the fruit that was in the way. She 

230 The Sea Gypsy 

was festooned with fruit. The life-boat and launch were 
packed with it. The awning guys groaned under their 
burden. But once we struck the full trade-wind, the dis- 
burdening began." (How true this was of the Wisdom.) 
"At every roll the Snark shook overboard a bunch or so of 
bananas and coconuts, or a basket of limes. A golden flood 
of limes washed about in the lee-scuppers. The big baskets 
of yams burst, and pineapples and pomegranates rolled back 
and forth. The chickens had got loose and were every- 
where, roosting on the awnings fluttering and squawking 
out on the jib-boom and essaying the perilous feat of 
balancing on the spinnaker-boom. They were wild 
chickens, accustomed to flight. When attempts were 
made to catch them they flew out over the ocean, 
circled about, and came back. Sometimes they did not 
come back. And in the confusion, unobserved, the little 
sucking pig got loose and slipped overboard." 



IT is a long sail from Bora Bora to the Red Sea, and, of 
course, most of the places I have already written 
about were touched at while the Wisdom was wandering 
through the waters between these two points; but, just 
as the Wisdom was a gypsy in her sailing, so I have 
wandered gypsy fashion in my writing. But I had a 
reason. If I had started with the first chapter in this 
book to write about the Marquesas Islands in the South 
Seas, which was therfirst stop of the Wisdom when she 
sailed from Los Angeles on her three years ' cruise, it is 
probable that you would not have read this book, for 
people are tired of reading of the "mystic isles" of 
Polynesia, the editors say. 

But this night when you now find the Wisdom, she 
has just entered the southern end of the Red Sea, and 
is being driven by a spanking breeze north for Suez. 

Now everybody who has ever read anything about 
the East knows that the Red Sea is a long, abnormally 
calm body of oily black water. Well, everybody 
knows just wrong. The Red Sea isn't like that at all. 



The Sea Gypsy 

The Red Sea is a thirteen-hundred-mile stretch of 
water-treachery. It is a mixture of contrary gales, of 
shifting sands and shoals, and lighthouses that don't 
light and decrepit coast villages filled with hostile 
Bedouins, and pilots who don't know how to pilot. At 
any rate that is the Red Sea in February. If you don't 
believe it ask any of the heterogeneous crew of my ship 
and you will find my opinion of it embellished by the 
entire vocabulary of half a dozen nations. 

During our first night up that body of water we were 
supposed to pass the lighthouse of Mokha, once famous 
for its coffee, a deserted town on the southwest coast of 
Yemen, in Arabia. The sailing directions said that the 
light stood 170 feet above the water, and was visible 19 
miles away. A fine guide of brilliant white flashes to 
make plain the danger of a wicked coast to mariners 
sailing down the dark of the night. A fine guide, 
but . . . 

I was awakened by a tremendous shock which almost 
threw me out of my bunk. In a second I was scram- 
bling up the companionway stairs. I clung to the rail- 
ing as I mounted, for the Wisdom was almost on her 
side, and she shook and quivered like a mad thing. I 
knew it could only be one of two things — reef or rocks ; 
and that, as stoutly built as she was, the little sea 
gypsy could not stand buffeting long ; it would tear the 
bottom out of any craft that ever floated. As I swung 
up on deck a great roller hurled itself in with crashing 
force, breaking clear over the ship; the rushing water 
struck me full in face and body, choking me, and I just 

That Calm Red Sea 233 

managed to grasp the life line to save myself from being 
swept over the side. 

I hung on, and took one quick glance around. By 
moonlight I could see the figures of the watch on deck, 
hanging on to anything they had been able to grasp, 
and the watch below coming tumbling up. Up came 
big Mac, naked but for a bright red, white-flowered 
South Sea pareou ; up came Shorty Schoedsack, his tall 
frame covered with gorgeous purple pajamas; up came 
Cooper, bare to the waist, with a hideous bright red 
Malay sarong clinging about his legs. From forward 
came John, stark naked, but with his knife swinging to 
the belt fastened about his bare middle, and Fiji Jack, 
wearing only a flapping undershirt. All were swinging 
along desperately, for the Wisdom had tilted still farther 
over since she had first struck and was now held hard 
on by the force of a spanking breeze beating against her 
sails. The big mainsail, fluttering like some wild bird 
caught in a snare, was almost touching the water, and 
the waves which broke over the deck were likewise 
drenching its lower half. But the Wisdom did not 
move ; she was hard and fast on a reef of some kind ; if a 
sand bar there was a chance ; if a reef of coral the ship 
was done for. 

We had run almost dead ahead into danger for I could 
just make out in front of us the quiet waters of a shoal, 
while the mainland was only a few hundred yards away. 
From seaward thousands of tons of water swept in in 
the shape of huge rollers, which broke themselves into 
a thousand parts with deafening roars on the reef on 

234 The Sea Gypsy 

which our little ship lay. Ten minutes of this, and she 
would break up; a fierce gust of wind, and over she 
would go. It looked like the finish. Should we take 
to the boats or have a shot at saving her? 

''Take the chance, take the chance," I thought. 

"Down with the mainsail!" Taylor springs to the 
main peak halliard, and the rest of the crew string out 
somehow along the mainsheet. Down comes the peak; 
and, as the wind spills out of the mainsail, the men on 
its sheet begin to haul mightily. Ordinarily it is a 
long, hard job to get in that sail against a stiff wind, 
and we have to luff her up so that there is little pressure 
against it ; but you cannot luff a ship that is stuck on a 
reef. All that can be done is to pull, and pull for life. 
Every wave that strikes seems as if it will break the 
bottom out of her, and it is certain that with full sail 
on her in a few moments she will turn turtle. 

1 ' Lay on her, boys, lay on her ! " 

And how they lay on her ! There is no way to stand 
firm on that deck, for it is tilted far over at a shoot-the- 
shoots angle, and no shoot-the-shoots was ever more 
slippery. Impossible — but they do it. Nobody 
whines, nobody loses his head except the frightened 
mess-boys, who are clinging on forward, Shamrock 
down on his knees either trying to pray or knocked 
there by the last wave. Mac's New England twang 
sounds slow and undisturbed, in regular cadence: 
"Heave — heave — heave." And somehow, with the 
word, they grip that sliding slippery deck with their 

That Calm Red Sea 235 

bare feet and heave away. Someone starts the old 
chanty, sung on the Wisdom at a hundred up anchors. 

"I'd a Bible in my hand, when I sailed, when I 
sailed . . ." 

And to the beat and swing of it they heave. 
Through the dark, above the crash and roar of the sea, 
sounds the last harsh rhythm of the chanty: 

"I'd a Bible in my hand 
By my father's great command, 
But I sunk it in the sand . . ." 

"All together now!" cries Mac. 

Ends the chanty: "When I sailed." 

On the last word the boom gives the last few pre- 
cious inches, and is in. And now they swing on the down- 
haul; and now, struggling and righting, the big brown 
canvas starts down ; but just as it does the ship gives a 
tremendous forward lurch. Sinking? No, by God! 
She's off! She's off! 

With that she slides over the sand bar, but the miz- 
zensail jibes ; the boom tackle holds, and the mizzensail 
rips to tatters. For a long breathless second the ship 
rests on the back of a swell; then the swell rolls forward, 
the ship slides down its side and the stern strikes bottom 
with a gut-shattering shock. It is evident that the 
depth inside the bar is less than the ship's present 
draught. And we soon realized why, and at what a 
cost. At that last tremendous jar the entire ten-ton 
lead keel, which had enabled the Wisdom to carry 
heavy canvas, has been torn off, and now remains stuck 

236 The Sea Gypsy 

in the sand bar, while the ship floats clear. Only if it 
is now low tide, and the tide is coming in, have we a 
chance in a thousand of finding an opening out through 
the bar at dawn ; if the tide is high and running out, we 
can never make it. 

But there is not time to think of that now, for the 
ship is being blown farther shoreward. So: "Let go 
the anchor." They heave up that five-hundred-pound 
anchor from the shocks as if it were a thistle, and over 
she goes and down she goes — and holds. 

For the moment we are safe, for the sand bar breaks 
the heavy surf, and here inside the bar is only a deep 
swell, but even this swell lets the Wisdom down on 
the bottom with terrific crashes. The stern is taking 
the heaviest blows, so we pump our drinking water, 
which is in the after compartments, over the side, and 
shift the stores from the lazaret to the forecastle 

There is nothing to do now, but shoot distress 
rockets — which fizzle dismally — and wait for the dawn, 
and hope. 

On the shore a light nickered along the sands. And 
I remembered what I had been told at Aden by men 
whose business it was to sail the Arabian coast. "It's 
a damned bad place to be wrecked on," they said. 
' ' The Bedouins will do you in for the loot on your ship 
without the slightest compunction if they think they 
can get away with it." 

So I ordered Cooper and Dresser, the Dane, to get 
the guns ready, and Schoedsack to solder up the mo- 

That Calm Red Sea 239 

tion picture film, for I was determined to save that 

A few minutes later I started below to see how things 
were there, and as I was on the stairs the Wisdom struck 
bottom with a fiercer jar than usual, and I was thrown 
against the banisters. These gave way, and I hurtled 
down, landing on my back. I picked myself up gin- 
gerly, and cursing crawled to a seat and looked around. 
By the dim light of two flickering candles — for the first 
shock when we struck had knocked our electric light- 
ing plant out of commission — I saw a warlike scene. 
Four sawed-ofT shotguns were lined up against a locker, 
open boxes of buckshot shell beside them — and flank- 
ing these on one side were two sporting rifles, while on 
the other was a miscellaneous collection of revolvers 
and automatics. Cooper was sprawled on the deck 
working over his Thompson gun, a very efficient little 
machine gun which shoots from the shoulder, while 
Shorty and the Dane were surrounded by film cans, 
which they were soldering. And then Shamrock ap- 
peared, his eyes bulging with fright, his black skin the 
color of dark ashes — he was too scared to realize what 
he was doing, but, as this was the usual hour, he was 
automatically setting the swinging table for breakfast. 

As I watched the men working I considered our pre- 
dicament. The Wisdom was still pounding on the sand 
bottom — for sand it must be, or she would already have 
broken up. I hoped it was low tide, but, even if it was, 
there was little chance of finding an opening on the bar 
through which to escape to deep water. Also, she was 


The Sea Gypsy 

already taking in much water, for the pounding had 
opened up her seams; and I could hear the steady 
rhythm of the pumps now, as Taylor was working the 
men above to keep her afloat. The question was to 
prepare for her breaking up or becoming stranded. If 
we were forced to land, should we make an armed camp 
and send the dory the hundred miles down the coast 
for help, or should we try to march along the coast our- 
selves? Either chance looked pretty bad if the na- 
tives lived up to their reputation. And what of the 
flickering light on shore? Did that mean hostile 
Bedouins already? And what the devil had happened 
to that lighthouse, with its brilliant white light flashing 
its message of warning 19 miles out to sea? Why 
didn't anyone see it? 

And even while thinking over these things memory- 
flashes of scenes on deck when we struck shot across my 
mind. Once more I saw Shamrock, clad only in dirty 
long woolen underdrawers, kneeling and praying to 
Buddha, yet as he prayed hanging on to the anchor 
windlass, that the waves breaking over the deck might 
not sweep him over the side; and I heard Big Mac 
shouting curses at him, and then saw Mac kick the 
crouching Cingalese to his feet, for Shamrock's praying 
was demoralizing his two fellows of the galley who 
crouched near by. I saw little Johnny grasp the ship's 
bell and stop its clamor for a moment ; then he let it go 
as he rushed to grasp the downhaul, and again the bell 
began clanging loudly with every roll and jar of the 
stricken ship. I watched Taylor's sphinx-like counte- 

That Calm Red Sea 241 

nance show exasperation for once, as a rocket flared up 
in his hands and gave only light enough to see his face ; 
and I visualized once more that slipping, struggling line 
of men heaving desperately on the downhaul. 

Every few seconds my thoughts were interrupted by 
the heavy crash of the keel on the bottom, followed by 
an agonizing unsteady quivering. But gradually the 
pounding became less and less. The tide was coming 
in as the dawn came slowly creeping up from behind 
the grim desert mountains. Then the sun rose round 
and red, and on shore I could see figures running back 
and forth, and far up the coast line the tip of a mosque 
minaret glistening white. The crowd on shore in- 
creased; through the glasses we could see a long row of 
Arabs squatting like vultures on the sand-dunes. 

And still the tide rose. As the sun climbed higher 
and higher, lighting up the water, we looked out anx- 
iously seeking an opening in the sand bar ; and suddenly 
we spotted, there in the line of white breakers which 
marked the sand-bank, a bit of blue water. Here was 
the thousandth chance, and we took it. 

Dresser tried the auxiliary gasoline motor, which we 
used in times of necessity, instead of sails. It worked. 
Up anchor, and with the lead line measuring our depth 
every fifteen seconds we crawled slowly ahead. With 
full motor we could just make steerage way. 

The bow of the Wisdom poked slowly into the strip 
of blue water. Not a sound from anyone. This was 
the crucial moment. Then "By the deep three," sang 
out Mac from the chains. 

242 The Sea Gypsy 

Three fathoms of water ; three fathoms, and we draw 
only two ! The thousandth chance had won. 

Ten seconds more and we were outside — and safe. 

Outside the south wind was still blowing strongly, so 
we decided, despite the loss of the lead keel and the 
open seams in the stern which made us keep the pumps 
going almost continually, that, rather than turn back 
ignominiously to Aden, we would keep on for Suez. 
With that fine south wind we thought we could make it 
surely in a few days with the motor, for now the use of 
much sail was impossible, for without the keel to balance 
her the Wisdom was pretty likely to turn turtle under 
full canvas. 

It seemed almost with the thought of letting us reach 
Suez that the Red Sea became enraged, for the wind 
shifted clear around, and blew from the north. And 
blew up hard. We could make no headway against it, 
but listing far over to starboard the Wisdom seemed to 
stay in one spot, pitch nose upward toward the sky and 
fall back in the same place again, to repeat the per- 
formance when the next wave struck her. And all the 
while the men pumped, and pumped, and pumped. 

We consulted the chart. Jidda on the coast of 
Arabia was the nearest port. So I ordered the Dane to 
shut off the motor, and, cautiously hoisting what was 
left of the sails, we tacked for that port. We sighted 
Jidda at last, and as its tall white houses rose out of the 
desert as we approached it seemed a haven of rest to 

That Calm Red Sea 243 

our weary crew, for at Jidda I had determined to wait 
until the wind shifted around and gave us a chance to 
beat up to Suez for dry dock and repairs. 

At Jidda we found that that supposed 19-mile flash- 
ing white light to warn poor mariners from the treacher- 
ous coast at Mokha had been extinguished long before 
by the Bedouins. 



JIDDA is an old, old, decrepit, crowded and dirty 
little town. Not a single hotel is to be found there. 
Mr. Thomas Cook has no bright young man waiting to 
greet tourists. You may search the narrow, crooked 
streets from sunrise till dark and never discover a 
vendor of picture postcards. There are no theaters, no 
parks, no drives, no sports. Indeed a stranger there is 
a sort of a prisoner, for the town is surrounded by a high 
stone wall outside of which he is forbidden to go without 
permission. Yet 

Yet this queer and unlovely little place rivals South- 
ern California and the Riviera in number of visitors. 
Hundreds of ships, decks packed with men, women, and 
children, sail there each year from distant countries, 
and two hundred million people dream all their lives of 
making the long sea voyage which terminates at its 

The reason for this strange condition is that this 
desert town is the port to Mecca, where stands the 
House of Allah, the sacred shrine for the Holy Pilgrim- 
age of Islam. Thus it is said to be the Port to Paradise. 


In the Port to Paradise 247 

Accompanied by Taylor, Cooper, McNeil and 
Schoedsack, I landed to ask temporary aid while wait- 
ing for the North Wind to abate so that we could crawl 
on up to Suez. We entered the town through the great 
gate which leads directly into the bazaar. 

Here was the heart of the Port to Paradise. 

In that squalid square and through the little dark 
streets teemed the life of all the East — thick-lipped, 
shiny-black African slaves; fezzed Turks; ragged wan- 
dering dervishes; lepers crawling among the innumer- 
able mangy dogs which dozed in the center of the ways ; 
turbaned Indians; naked brown boys on donkeys; 
black-robed, barefooted women, peering out of the 
eye-slits of face masks from which hung rows of silver 
and gold and brass coins, and a hundred other types. 

But most distinctive of all were the desert Bedouins. 
A caravan of hundreds of camels had just come in, and 
through these the crowd squirmed and jostled. The 
camel men, faces as hard and dry as their sun-baked 
plains, cast fierce glances at any who dared to brush 
near them. Each carried a curved sword or knife, and 
seemed prepared to use it. These men were not the 
tall, heavily bearded Arabs of the picture books, but 
small, slight men of whipcord and leather, with little 
hair on their faces. 

And among all this outpouring of the sea and desert — 
the dregs left over from many a Mecca pilgrimage and 
the native human wolves and jackals who prey on the 
pilgrims — we walked, the only Europeans. 

We turned down a side street, and went on past 


The Sea Gypsy 

coffee houses, where immobile Arabs, puffing on great 
pipes, regarded us gravely, past cubby-holes of shops 
where tinsmiths and sword and pipe makers were work- 
ing their metals as their forefathers did a thousand 
years ago, and on past stalls, where sat potbellied 
merchants guarding their great golden Jaffa oranges, 
the rugs, the beads, the robes, the knives, and the 
hundred and one trinkets with which the stalls were 
loaded. And so came at last out of the bazaar into 
the brilliant sunlight. 

We found ourselves m a maze of tall, white houses of 
four and five and even six stories — skyscrapers of the 
East. The houses were made of coral rock and mud 
and wood. Not one stood straight. They leaned at 
every angle, except heavenward. It looked as if a 
good push would tumble the place down as easily as a 
child's city of cards. 

From the harbor we had seen the flags of England, 
France, Italy and Holland floating over the tallest of 
the skyscrapers in the northeastern part of the town. 
We found the English Consulate, peering out over the 
city wall, seemingly just ready to pitch itself into the 
desert. It was an immense five-storied building, with a 
most dilapidated remnant of garden in front. We 
climbed two flights of decaying stairs to meet in the 
office above the four Englishmen who composed the 
consulate force. The Consul and British Political 
Agent was a small, wiry Scotch Major-Doctor, by name 
Marshall, who had been one of the fellow officers of 
the famous young Colonel Lawrence, whose brilliant 




In the Port to Paradise 251 

career in the Hejaz has already become romantic 
legend. I told Marshall what I wanted. Now, an 
English official, as every traveller knows, can be the 
most disagreeable chap in the world — or the most de- 
cent. Marshall was the latter. He immediately ar- 
ranged an audience with the Kaimakan (Governor). 

"I'll arrange an audience for you with the Kaimakan, 
— that's the Governor, you know," he said. 

"Splendid," said I. 

Accompanied by an interpreter from the Consulate 
we walked over to his house, which was near by. Just 
inside the gate to the courtyard a dozen barefoot Arab 
soldiers, in black cotton Kamis (a sort of smock or 
shirt) held in at the waist by English cartridge belts, 
presented arms. A grey-bearded Arab, his silk Kami 
flapping about his thick ankles, came trotting down a 
flight of wooden stairs which ran down the outside of 
the house. This was the Kaimakan. He was a round 
little man, with the placid and kindly face of the story 
book philanthropist, but who, I afterwards learned, was 
the richest and shrewdest merchant in Jidda, and was 
said to be worth several million dollars. Also, he was 
a ruler in a country where the hand of the law holds al- 
ways a sword or whip. 

The Kaimakan smiled his benevolent smile; he 
salaamed ; so did we. He shook hands all around, and 
then led us upstairs into a room carpeted with beautiful 
handwoven rugs, but bare of furniture, except for a 
little table and two big chairs, and a long divan. The 
divan was covered with bright-colored rugs also, and 

252 The Sea Gypsy 

strewn with silk embroidered pillows. The ceiling 
seemed miles above. The absence of the gimcracks 
with which we too often clutter up our apartments gave 
a singular air of dignity and spaciousness to the room. 

A black slave glided in almost immediately with 
cigarettes and the inevitable tiny cups of heavily 
sweetened coffee. The next five minutes were spent 
in exchanging compliments. The Kaimakan told us 
how greatly was the town honored, and the Kaimakan 
in particular, by the presence of an American yacht in 
Jidda, and he spoke at length of the love and friendship 
of Arabia for great and noble America. I returned his 
compliments in kind. Then he placed workmen and 
anything else we needed at our disposal, to repair, if 
we wished, some of the damage to our ship. This kind 
offer included water, and let me tell you right here that 
water is as fine a present as one can give in Jidda. The 
rich men of the town import their water clear from 
Bombay, and a native of Jidda licks his lips and speaks 
of "very sweet water, that" when someone mentions 
Bombay water. For water is not only scarce here be- 
tween the desert and the salt sea, but the water ob- 
tained from these desert wells is as bitter as gall. I 
declined the Kaimakan' s offer, but asked permission 
to take motion pictures. 

Motion pictures. The benevolent smile dropped 
from the Kaimakan's face. I explained. The inter- 
preter interpreted my explanation. And finally the 
Kaimakan gave permission, but with a dubious air, it 
seemed to me, for there are no motion pictures in Jidda, 

A Sky-Scraper in Jidda 

In the Port to Paradise 255 

or photographs or paintings either for that matter, 
because the Prophet forbade the reproduction of the 
human form. As we went down the stairs, 1 saw two 
masked ladies peeping out of a door at us. 

Xo sooner were we back at the British Consulate 
than the Kaimakan called up and said to hold up the 
pictures until he could telephone the King at Mecca. 
Telephone Mecca! The mystic city, the unknown! 
It sounded as if someone was saying: "Wait a minute 
until I call up the man in the moon." But the tele- 
phone line to the Holy City of Allah was efficient ap- 
parently, for a few minutes later the Kaimakan came 
back all bows. His round, happy face rippled and 
rippled with ever-expanding lines of benevolence. 

The King was delighted to hear of our arrival, he 
said. Only the presence of a guest — the ex-Sultan of 
Turkey, who had arrived a short time before — pre- 
vented his coming down from Mecca to receive us in 
person. Otherwise he would surely come. But as he 
could not with politeness leave the Sultan, he was send- 
ing his eldest son, Emir Ali, the Crown Prince, to bid 
us welcome. As for any pictures we wished to take, 
why, of course. And at our disposal were what guards 
we needed, and anything else we wanted. Meanwhile, 
would we honor the Kaimakan by our presence at a 
reception to be given for us the next day. 

The reception was held in the house of Reis el Bile- 
diah, the "Lord Mayor" of Jidda; in a big room facing 

256 The Sea Gypsy 

out on the sea. A guard of mounted Bedouins was 
drawn up outside the house to receive us and, standing 
in line with these was an Arab brass band, which broke 
into a clangorous welcome as we entered the garden 
gate. The reception room was set with a score of small 
round tables, loaded down with many kinds of cakes 
and bottles of pink soda-water. Around these little 
tables were fifty or so of the chief Sheiks, officials and 
merchants of the town in gorgeous silk robes. Some 
of these were miserably dignified, sitting European 
fashion, with their feet on the floor, but the others* 
tucking their legs up under them and sitting cross- 
legged on their chairs, rested quite comfortably. Most 
were smoking cigarettes, but several of the older men, 
including the Kaimakan slipped every now and then 
into a little adjoining room and there puffed happily 
away on big water pipes. 

With us at the far end of the room were the members 
of the European colony, about a dozen in all. The 
British numbered six. Besides the four officials there 
were two young Scotchmen, who represented a ship- 
ping company which also did banking business. But 
the bank part was not official, for the King holds that 
the Koran forbids banks, though undoubtedly the 
Prophet only meant to put the ban on usury. 

These six Britishers were the only Europeans in 
Jidda who attempted to keep fit. Here they were, 
cramped up in a walled town, set on the edge of an un- 
friendly desert, and in a climate which inclines all men 
to lassitude. Yet they had to have their golf. Catch 

In the Port to Paradise 257 

an Englishman — or a Scotchman either, for that mat- 
ter — missing his golf, no matter where he is. This 
little group had wrung a reluctant permission from the 
King to go outside the walls for a short distance. Then 
they had set up a golf course, by the simple process of 
digging nine holes in the desert. And to this desert 
golf course all six repaired promptly each day at four 
o'clock. There they played at no little risk. Such 
was the danger that they were likely at any time to lose 
the privilege of playing, on account of the fear of the 
King that, even under the shadow of the town walls, 
they would be killed by desert Bedouins, probably hired 
by some of his political enemies who would wish that 
England hold him responsible for the death of her citi- 
zens. With the usual passion of their race for clubs, 
these six Britishers made this desert golf an excuse for 
one — the Hejaz Golf Club. They had also formed an- 
other—The Jidda Bridge Club. 

At the reception were also the French and Dutch 
Consuls, and another Dutchman, a fuzzy-bearded fel- 
low, whose customary garb was made up of "shorts" 
and an Arab Kunyah (a silk and cotton cloth draped 
about the head). This Dutchman, who had come to 
Jidda as a poor clerk fourteen years before, was one of 
the richest men in the Hejaz. Like everyone else he 
made his money out of the pilgrims. He helped to 
turn the trick by a turn in faith. Adroitly he changed 
over from Christianity to Mohammedanism, and then, 
getting the local agency for a number of steamships, 
maneuvered his position as one of the Faithful to such 

258 The Sea Gypsy 

effect that he bagged a goodly part of the pilgrim traf- 
fic. Now, for each pilgrim travelling on one of the 
ships he represents he gets a small bonus. It is said 
that he thus makes a hundred thousand dollars a year. 
He has a small yacht, a great house, many slaves, and 
has married an Abyssinian wife. I was told that for a 
long time he has been anxious to go back to Holland, 
but that he has sworn not to go until he has first made 
the pilgrimage to Mecca. Each year, for many years, 
he has made application to go, and each year the King 
has refused to grant permission. So there he stays in 
the dirty little Port to Paradise, a millionaire, with no 
way to enjoy his money, held a lonely exile by a vow of 
the renegade faith which made him rich, longing, I 
think, for the cool and pleasant little cities of his tulip 
land over the seas. 

But to return to the tea party : The most noticeable 
thing was the absence of women. Here were fifty of 
the most important men of a town at a tea party — or 
lemonade and coffee party, if you prefer — and not one of 
their women was with them. Imagine an American 
tea party with such an attendance ! The only women 
there were two Europeans — the only two white 
women in Jidda — and a Christian Syrian, a warm- 
skinned, black-eyed beauty. One of the European 
women was the Irish wife of the Dutch Consul; 
the other was a Russian, one of those fair, tall, 
blue-eyed creatures, who, when you do find them in the 
Ukraine, are lovely beyond all comparison. The hus- 
band of the young Russian woman, a black-bearded 

A Water Carrier of the East 

In the Port to Paradise 261 

cripple, with a deep saber scar, received while fighting 
the Bolsheviks with Denekin, running down his fore- 
head and between his eyes. :h her. He was the 
chief and only engineer of the Hejaz Air Force, winch 
is made up of Russians. The Air Force is composed 
■::" :hree :~: rs "h: are -.his zz.zir.z~z and :~: r 1 : - s . 
and a mechanic for each of the latter. The pilots were 
not present at the reception, because, as I afterwards 
learned, the poor fellows were ashamed of their shabby 
ci::h/inr — :h / were zz/z.z :n a miserable -i::ar.:e. 


The Russians lived in a long, two-storied baildmg of 
coral rock on the water front. I have said that Jidda 
is old — old beyond history. Well, this house must have 
dated with the Pyramids and the Sphinx. It was an old 

z.zz :: z. h: use in a :i:y :;' nvhlenaran 'z.zzzzS The s::r.e 
s:e;s --ere zvrvei like : :~ s ever/ s::re :: :he "alls 
appeared as if it would crumble at the touch; the 
dust of the ages lay a foot deep in the arched alley-Eke 
entrance. It had formerly been used as a warehouse, I 
Z zrs.z-z and his y:i-.; wife reeunied a 

zzzz r: : :n ~\z::'z. s:re::hef ilea: anss ::•: s hie :: the 

• . . .... . ._ -_.. 

rusty iron bedsteads, hung with tattered mosquito 

: :hree r.var.: n ihars and a 

table, seemed to be lost in the gloomy and vast space 

::' :ne erf ::" :he zharzb-er. An ureruhar r:w ;f nans 

::r.;-: in :e:"-een :h- :-s ::' :he s::nes 

anf : . :: : ;.:.'-. 

262 The Sea Gypsy 

single woman's dress of cotton, a pair of patched 
trousers, and a few articles of underwear hung thus 
before my eyes. Pitiful wall pictures they made for a 
pitiful scene. 

Nevertheless, the Russian girl, sitting before the rude 
table, poured tea out of a tin teapot into heavy glasses 
as graciously as if she were serving from a silver samovar 
in her own spacious country house in the Ukraine, a 
house, which, if it still existed, she knew she would 
never dwell in again. She and one of our party who 
called on her talked of golden Kiev in the spring, and 
she told charming tales of the old life on the Russian 
Riviera, down in the Crimea on the borders of the Black 
Sea, and we talked of music and opera books. 

Then said the American, quite carelessly, "And 
what pleasure can you find in living here?" 

And with that he would have bitten his tongue out, 
for what could life offer her — a cultured woman, of an 
indolent and pleasure-loving race and caste — in the 
far-off, dirty, Arab town? 

But the Russian woman said quite simply, "I have 
my husband here." 

The two Russian pilots lived in the other big room 
of the building. One was a heavy-set fellow who had 
been a non-commissioned officer, and the second, a 
quick-moving, little chap of thirty-odd, an ex-Colonel 
in the Imperial Army and a former landed proprietor. 
The Colonel had come to Jidda the previous month. 
Previously he had been riding as a jockey in Cairo, but 
had grown too heavy, had lost his job, and when abso- 

In the Port to Paradise 263 

lutely penniless, had heard of a chance to fly in the Air 
Service of the King of the Hejaz, and had taken it. 
The little Colonel was extremely shabby, and did not 
have a regular flying suit. He flew in a ragged old 
winter suit of blue serge, very frayed and spotted, and 
this suit he was also forced to wear at the reception of 
the King, for it was indeed his only one. But he 
seemed totally undisturbed. He had the air of the 
typical dashing officer of cavalry, for such he had been 
before he entered the aviation corps, and was not less 
the great gentleman in the rags and tatters than he had 
been in his splendid uniform of the Imperial Guard. 

It was the little Colonel who took "Shorty" Schoed- 
sack for an air trip over Jidda, and enabled him to make 
the only aerial pictures of the city which have ever 
been taken. 

The flying field was only a strip of the desert down 
near the water's edge and just outside the city walls. 
The aeroplanes of the Kingdom of the Hejaz which 
were then in operation consisted of two English biplane 
machines of an obsolete type and two old French train- 
ing machines. On these latter the Russians were 
endeavoring to instruct some Arab officers in the art 
of air pilotage. Despite the reputation of the Arabs 
for daring horsemanship, the officers were not making 
much progress as airmen. None of them had yet 
graduated. Occasionally the little Colonel and 
his companion flew over the desert to insurgent 
camps or villages and bombed them into submis- 
sion. The air job of the Russians was not to be 


The Sea Gypsy 

envied, for a forced landing among the Bedouins of 
the desert meant certain death. 

As one wanders about the world one comes upon 
these Russian exiles in every kind of queer place and 
working at equally queer occupations. They teach 
languages at the palaces of Indian potentates; they 
breed horses for African monarchs; pick grapes in the 
vineyards of the Gironde; dig in the ditches of Aus- 
tralia ; rake in gold as croupiers in the gambling dens of 
Cairo; and gasp out life's last breath on the sands of the 
Sahara where they have fallen fighting in the foreign 
legions of France and Spain. They are in exactly the 
same position as the emigres of the French aristocracy 
after the French Revolution. Trained to do nothing 
but be fine gentlemen, they have suddenly found them- 
selves cast bodily into a cold outside world where the 
profession of being a gentleman has ceased to be lucra- 
tive. So they turn their hands to anything that gives 
bread — or die. The number of suicides among the 
Russian exiles is enormous. 

''Better to die an aristocrat than live like a swine," 
one of them once told me in commenting on a comrade 
of his who had blown out his brains. 

Voila, the Russian exiles. 



I7ARLY in the morning after the reception given us 
by the Governor of Jidda, I was informed that 
the Crown Prince, the Emir Ali, had arrived from 
Mecca, and was waiting to receive me. 

He was staying at his house, which looked out over 
the town wall to the sea. It was a four-storied building 
without a garden. When I arrived there, accompanied 
by one of the British Vice-Consuls, fastened to the post 
near the door were two of the small but beautiful 
horses for which Arabia has ever been noted. These 
were gorgeously caparisoned in harness and blankets 
of purple and gold. Always two such horses are ready 
saddled for the Prince. On either side of the door were 
two black-robed soldiers, who came to attention; and, 
as we entered, we saw, sitting on a bench just inside 
the doorway, half a dozen Bedouin nobles, fierce, 
harsh-looking men, all armed with gold and silver 
scabbarded swords, fit guards for a King's son in truth. 

A black Major-domo led us up a steep flight of stairs 
to the second floor, and there ushered us into a waiting 



The Sea Gypsy 

room. Almost immediately a spectacled, clean shaven 
Arab entered and was introduced to me by the Vice- 
Consul as Sheikh Fuad El-Khatich, Secretary of State. 
He acknowledged the introduction with a few courteous 
words in excellent English, then led the way up to the 
next floor, where he removed his sandals at a doorway 
draped with a silken curtain. He pushed this aside, 
then bowed as a sign for us to enter. 

Seated on a divan at one end of a long room was a 
slim, somber figure clad in a dark kamis. Under a 
simple white kuflyah (head-dress) the man's face 
showed narrow and hollow-cheeked, the chin hidden 
by a short, black beard touched with grey. The fore- 
head was finely shaped, but covered with a network 
of wrinkles, and these seemed to deepen as he rose and 
stretched out his hand with a brisk gesture. The face 
was that of an aesthetic thinker, but the energetic move- 
ment bespoke the man of action as well. This was, of 
course, the Emir Ali, Crown Prince of the Hejaz. 

The Emir Ali possibly has a great future before him. 
He is the eldest son and successor of King Hussein ; and 
if the Crown Prince shows the strength and cleverness of 
his aged father, it is possible (though extremely doubt- 
ful) that he may be the future leader of all the three 
hundred millions of Islam. King Hussein has already 
climbed high toward that position. By birth — for he is 
the most direct descendant of the Prophet — he inherited 
the position of Sherif of Mecca, the guardian of the 
Ka'abah, which is the House of Allah and the holy 
shrine of Mecca. But this position was, after all, only 

A Prince of Islam 267 

a religious one, for the Sultan of Turkey, realizing the 
importance of having a firm grip on the place of the 
Pilgrimage, always kept a Turkish Governor and a 
strong garrison at Mecca. This rankled in the heart 
of the men, whose family has always claimed the title 
of King of All the Arabs. So when the Sultan, as Caliph, 
issued a call for a "Holy War" King Hussein denied 
the Sultan's right to the Caliphate, and, declaring 
that the war was not a holy one, chose as his slogan 
"Arabia, free and united," and entered the ranks of the 

During the war he and his sons, the Emirs, AH, 
Abdallah, Feisal and Zeid, were the leaders of the Arabs 
against the Turks. When the Germans and Turks 
went down in defeat he expected that the Allies would 
recognize his claim for a free and united Arabia, with 
Hussein as its King; and it has been repeatedly stated 
that the British signed some treaty with him which 
contained some such promise. That instead he was 
only acknowledged as King of the Hejaz, made him 
bitter. The giving of the questionable governorship 
of Transjordania to his son, the Emir Abdallah, did 
little to relieve that bitterness. And the final drop of 
gall was the acquiescence of the British to the action 
of the French army in driving the Emir Feisal from 
the throne of Syria. That the British have since made 
Feisal a sort of pseudo-king of Mesopotamia has not 
relieved King Hussein's injured feelings. In fact, since 
the loss of Syria, he has regarded the British as "men 
who speak with mud in their mouths" (I do not quote 

268 The Sea Gyspy 

him for that expression, but it came from a reliable 
source), that is, as violators of sacred pledges. 

It is a matter of the most intense interest to the 
Moslem world to know what are the aims of the Sherif- 
ian family as a result of all this strife. So Cooper one 
day asked the Emir Ali quite plainly what did he and 
his father want. 

"We want and intend to have a united Arabia," the 
Prince replied. 

"Including Syria?" Cooper asked. 

"Yes, including Syria," said the Prince. 

"How will you take it from the French? By force 
of arms? By war?" 

The Prince thought for a moment before he responded 
to this question ; then with eyes flashing his emotion, he 
answered : 

"Now" — and whether the Prince meant to empha- 
size that word of now, the Secretary of State, who was 
interpreting, emphasized it. "Now it is impossible 
for us to take Syria by war. But all Arabia sees that 
conditions are rapidly changing in Europe. We 
Arabians firmly believe that the day is not far off when 
European nations must give up their rule of the coun- 
tries of the East. Syria will be freed of the French 

That answer was repeated in substance again and 
again by other Arabs with whom we talked — sheikhs, 
soldiers and merchants. They all believe that the 
day of European domination in the East is fast coming 
to a close. They think that England will be swept 





■Mm - ' 




•"*- n 

A Street in Jidda 

A Prince of Islam 271 

from India, Africa and Arabia, and that the French 
and Dutch are hanging on to their colonies with a 
feeble and ever-weakening grasp. They believe that 
the dream of a united and dominant Islam is drawing 
near to reality. And it must not be forgotten that by 
their religion they are ordered to resist by force of 
arms the domination of peoples of other faith. The 
undying voice of the Prophet calls them to war. They 
fail to obey that order only because they realize that 
for the moment they lack the strength to push their 
enemies into the seas. 

If such a war ever comes it may well be that that 
slim, aesthetic man with the brow of a thinker, will be 
its leader (though he told me that Arabia needed peace 
and quiet, and that his people were tired of war). For 
now we come to what I believe, as do far, far more 
experienced and competent observers in the East, to 
be the real ambition of King Hussein. I think that he 
intends to try to make himself the Caliph of Islam. 

I was anxious to find out what part the deposed 
Sultan of Turkey (the former Caliph) was to play in 
this plan of King Hussein's, for it seemed strange in 
truth that the King of the Hejaz should be receiving as 
his honored guest one of his former bitterest enemies. 
Therefore we asked the Emir Ali : 

"Do you consider the ex-Sultan as Caliph of Islam, 
or do you hold that the Angora-Assembly-made Caliph 
rightly holds the title?" 

"Neither one nor the other," he responded. "The 
Turks have no right to choose a Caliph for all Islam. 


The Sea Gypsy 

The Caliph can only be chosen by all the Moslem 
peoples. At present there is none." 

No Caliph of Islam now. Right. And meanwhile 
King Hussein plans, I think, first to make a united 
Arabia, with himself at its head. Then, with this as 
the military power, to use both it and his own great 
religious influence as the Sherif of Mecca to have him- 
self declared Caliph. 

The Emir Ali paid a return visit aboard the Wisdom 
the next afternoon. Before he arrived a dhow came 
alongside loaded with foodstuffs. It was sunk low in 
the water, with watermelons, pumpkins, egg-plants, 
bags of rice and sugar, and buckets of butter piled high 
above the gunnels; and crowded in one end of the boat 
were six bleating sheep. The Arabs began calmly to 
heave these things up onto our deck. I was about to 
shout to them to stop, for I had ordered nothing like 
this ashore, when their leader came aboard and, with 
many salaams, told me that all the abundance was a 
gift from the Emir Ali. 

An hour afterwards, one of Jidda's three launches, 
carrying the Prince, accompanied by a dozen high 
officials, came alongside. When we saw the Prince at 
his house at other times, as on our first visit, he wore 
simple and almost somber robes, but on this occasion 
his dress was magnificent. His head was covered with 
a silk kufiyah of grey. A gorgeous purple silk kamis, 
heavily embroidered with gold, hung to his feet. Over 

A Prince of Islam 273 

this he wore a rich light-grey cloak, open in front. 
Around his waist was a wide belt, also embroidered in 
gold; and the belt held a short, curved dagger, the most 
beautiful I have ever seen, so finely chased was its 
scabbard and hilt of gold and silver. On his left hand 
was a diamond ring worth a small fortune. He looked, 
indeed, the Prince of a right Royal House. 

His attendants were also splendidly attired. The 
Chief Sheikh of the Bedouins, a lithe, little man, with 
dark and piercing eyes, a small, straight nose, and thin 
lips, rivaled his Prince in the richness of his apparel. 
Only two of our visitors were wearing semi-European 
clothing. One of these was the Minister of Air, Colonel 
Rushdi. His fat, short figure was covered with a field 
uniform like that of an English officer, but he too wore 
the Arabian kufiyah head-dress. I smiled inwardly 
when I saw the followers of the Prince come trooping 
up the gangway after their aesthetic-appearing leader, 
for they were nearly all like Colonel Rushdi, ridiculously 
plump. As I looked at them I could understand why 
the hard-bodied and flat-bellied Bedouins of the desert 
hold them in such small esteem ; and I remembered how 
Sir Richard Burton, during his famous trip to Mecca in 
disguise, gained the friendship of a hardy old man of 
the plains by singing for him a Bedouin song ridiculing 
soft -living town sheikhs. 

Maysunah, the beautiful young Bedouin wife of the 
rich and powerful but city-bred and bodily fat and soft 
Caliph Muawiyah is supposed to be singing. She 
sings : 

274 The Sea Gypsy 

"Oh take these purple robes away, 
Give back my robes of camel's hair, 
And bear me from this tow 'ring pile 
To where the Black tents flap i' the air. 
The camel's colt with fait 'ring tread, 
The dog that bays at all but me 
Delight me more than ambling mules— 
Than every art of minstrelsy, 
And any cousin, poor but free, 
Might take me, fatted ass! from thee." 

The East changes not its heart. So sing to-day the 
Bedouins in scorn of the soft-bodied ministers of the 

There were not enough chairs on the little Wisdom 
to seat all this distinguished party, so Taylor, McNeil 
and Schoedsack perched on the engine room hatch, 
while Shamrock, our Ceylonese messboy, served coffee 
and cigarettes and an even viler brand of lemonade 
than we had had at the reception ashore. 

The conversation was somewhat awkward and hesitat- 
ing at first, as only the Secretary of State spoke English, 
and as none of us knew a word of Arabic. I wished might- 
ily that our guests' religion would permit them to imbibe 
a few rounds of more potent drinks to liven things up a 
little. After a bit, however, the natural ease and gra- 
ciousness of the Prince took away the slight mutual 
embarrassment of both parties, and soon the Minister 
of Air was asking for more ragtime records on the vic- 
trola. Before our guests left I presented the Prince 
with a sporting rifle, and the next day he sent me a 
dagger, a duplicate of the one he had worn on the ship. 

A Prince of Islam 275 


A day or two after the visit of the Crown Prince to 
the Wisdom I went to see the tomb of Mother Eve, 
which lies in the desert just outside the town walls. 
It is in the center of a small graveyard, surrounded by 
a low wall. Eve was apparently a lady of sufficient 
size to mother all the human race, for her grave is 
several hundred feet long. Three domes mark the 
position of her head, feet, and navel, and two low walls, 
a yard or so apart, connect them. Burton recounts 
that he remarked to his travelling companion, the boy 
Mohammed, that Eve must have been shaped like a 
duck, for she measures, according to the placing of the 
domes, 120 paces from head to waist and 80 from waist 
to heel. Whereupon that youth replied flippantly 
"that he thanked his stars the Mother was under- 
ground, otherwise that men would lose their senses with 
fright." We found that the tomb was not regarded 
with great respect by the Mahommedans, and why 
should it be (Islam would ask), for after all, it is only 
the tomb of a woman, even if she was the mother of 
mankind. The attendants of the tomb are women also. 
A ragged old one showed us around, and ended her 
pious office by extending a very dirty hand and whining 
for "backsheesh." 

The four days for 1923 when the rites of the pilgrim- 
age are celebrated were set for July, but, already when 
we were in Jidda (this in February) the pilgrims had 
begun to come in. A boat, carrying several hundred 
Javanese pilgrims, anchored a quarter of a mile from 


The Sea Gypsy 

the Wisdom. The pilgrims were brought ashore in a long 
line of dhows — it looked like race day at a yachting 
club — and were received on the docks by a committee 
of Arab officials representing the Sherif. The little 
yellow Javanese, dressed in gaudy colors, and bare of 
leg and breast, huddled together — men, women and 
children — like frightened immigrants at Ellis Island. 
It may have been that they looked thus, what of awe 
at the idea that they were at last on the sacred soil 
where the Prophet's feet had touched, and what of the 
fact that they were now only forty miles from the 
House of Allah; but it seemed to me that their fright 
was due to the Arab petty officials, who hustled them 
about roughly in the manner of petty officials the world 

The group of Javanese spent one night in Jidda, 
being distributed around in bare rooms in some of the 
big tumbledown houses, for, as I have written, there 
are no hotels in Jidda, despite the huge influx of pil- 
grims each year. The next day we watched them pass 
out the Mecca gate in one long caravan. The wealthiest 
pilgrims were riding in covered platforms resting on 
camels' backs — desert sedans, in fact. The poorer pil- 
grims rode asses or walked. 

There are many tales of the dangers of the forty mile 
desert trip from Jidda to Mecca that these Javanese 
had to make to complete the long journey. The route 
is protected by a line of block-houses, several miles 
apart and garrisoned by soldiers of the King. I was 
told that Bedouin robbers rode near the lines, and took 


A Prince of Islam 279 

pot shots at stragglers from the caravans. If the 
robbers brought down their human game, they dashed 
in, looted the body, and escaped back to the desert. 
I was also informed that in certain passes the Sheikhs 
of Bedouin tribes held up caravans and forced the pil- 
grims to pay toll. These bandits rob after the fashion 
of Robin Hood, taking only a few piastres from the 
poor but making the rich pay heavily. 

We asked Emir Ali about this, and he admitted that 
such a condition had existed in the time of the rule of 
the Turks, but declared that, now the country was 
under Arab control, the King had managed to keep 
the caravan route to Mecca clear of bandits. This is 
quite likely the truth, for many people say that King 
Hussein has used the large gold subsidy paid him by 
the British until a few months ago to buy off the 
Bedouins. This is quite in keeping with his reputation 
of a clever politician, for, if it is a fact that his ambition 
is to be Caliph of Islam, his best bet is to gain the friend- 
ship of the pilgrims. Especially is this so, as it is well 
known that each year, during the pilgrimage, the 
leaders of every Mahommedan country, or their repre- 
sentatives, hold secret meetings in Mecca to discuss 
ways and means of spreading the Faith and for strength- 
ening its power. 

For the trip to Mecca the Javanese pilgrims were 
required to wear pilgrim dress. This dress is restricted 
to two white pieces of cloth, or towels, one thrown over 
the shoulders, and the other fastened about the waist. 
Not even a hat or sandals is permitted pilgrims. They 

280 The Sea Gypsy 

are required to garb themselves thus so that both rich 
and poor shall come to the Holy Shrine of the One God 
as equals — looking like equals anyway. 

Since coming to Port Said (where I am now writing 
this article) I recounted to a man who has been long in 
the East what we have seen of the pilgrimage. Then 
he asked : "And what kind of ceremonies do the pilgrims 
have to go through before Mahomet's tomb in Mecca?" 
I thought at first that he was joking, but I have since 
found that almost all Europeans and Americans think 
that the tomb of Mahomet is really at Mecca. Of 
course this is incorrect. Mahomet is buried in Medina, 
and the pilgrimage is made to Mecca to the Ka'abah, 
the sacred shrine of the One God, to which pilgrimages 
were made long before the birth of the Prophet. The 
Prophet simply destroyed the idols, which had been put 
up in Mecca, and declared that Mecca should be the 
place of pilgrimage for the true believers in the one 
God. Adam is supposed to have first built the Ka'abah. 
It has been rebuilt nine times, once by Abraham, ac- 
cording to Arab history. 

Mecca, despite its holy shrine, is reputed to be one 
of the most corrupt cities in the East. Its people are 
addicted to the lowest forms of Eastern vices — too 
vicious for me to describe here. Major Wavell, the 
famous young English traveller, one of the dozen or so 
white men, who, during the last hundred years, have 
managed to visit Mecca in disguise at the risk of their 
lives, has written of how in the very shadow of the 
sacred temple, one dignified hypocritical old Meccan 

A Prince of Islam 283 

tried to sell him photographs depicting the kind of 
things which take place only in the worst kind of dives, 
these photographs having been taken in the Holy City 

It seems to be the general impression in Christian 
countries that every Mohammedan is required to make 
the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is not so. Mahomet 
left specific directions that only those who could well 
afford the trip should make it. However, so great is 
the desire of thousands of poor men to be "Hajis," 
as those who have made the pilgrimage are called, that 
as soon as they have saved the bare expenses of the 
trip, they desert their families and make for Mecca. 
Every year many of them, either because of the rapacity 
of the Meccans or due to the fact that they have to wait 
months for a steamer to leave, become stranded in 
Jidda. The Indian Government (or Islam Church in 
India) has a special fund to take care of these poor 
pilgrims, and sometimes the number sent back by this 
fund amounts to thousands. The Dutch Consul also 
told me that he also often has to ship thousands of 
impoverished pilgrims back to Netherland Indies. 
But many remain in Jidda. 

Outside of the walls of Jidda is a desert village made 
of sticks and rags. We called it " Rag-bag-Town." At 
the sight of us, when we walked through it, half naked 
negroes dodged into their tiny huts like rabbits into 
holes. These blacks are former pilgrims from the West 
coast of Africa. They walked clear across the African 
Continent on the pilgrimage, enduring from two to five 


The Sea Gypsy 

years of hardship and toil to make the trip. Now they 
form part of the flotsam of the Moslem world that has 
been left stranded in Jidda, and which help to make it 
one of the strangest cities of the East. 

The presence of these negroes, who had endured so 
much at the call of the Prophet, gives some idea of how 
strongly does the Faith of Islam grip the hearts of 
black and brown and yellow peoples. These peoples 
are increasing at a rate far greater than that of the 
whites. And it is well for us to remember that the 
strong and militant church of Islam is ever spreading 
and spreading, and that some day the white race may 
have to face that militant faith in a militant way. 



T^HIS chapter was to have been a long one. It was to 
have told about how the Wisdom was repaired, 
and how she triumphantly went through the Medi- 
terranean, sailed across the Atlantic, and arrived back 
in America with her strange and picturesque crew, 
after circumnavigating the globe. Indeed, it was to 
have been the longest chapter in the book. But, 
instead, I fear it will be the shortest — I doubt if it will 
cover much more than this page — and the tale it will 
tell will be quite different from the one I had planned. 
For ten days we waited at Jidda, and the thrice- 
cursed Red Sea wind still blew from the north, and we 
could not venture out to sea. Then as the wind still 
continued, on the eleventh day we hired an old native 
pilot and, sailing by day and anchoring at night, the 
Wisdom painfully crept up the inland passage within 
the reefs toward Suez. It took us ten more days to 
cover four-fifths of the distance, for it turned out that 
the pilot, who spent most of his time trying to convert 
us to Mohammedanism, only knew a part of the way; 



The Sea Gypsy 

then we picked up a coast fisherman, and when his 
knowledge failed felt our way along with a lead line. 

And all this time the wind blew steadily from the 
North, preventing the Wisdom, in her crippled condi- 
tion, from coming out from behind the protection of 
the reefs. At last, when only a few miles from Suez the 
wind shifted dead around and, for the first time, since 
we had been wrecked over three weeks before, it blew 
from the South. Oh, that thrice-cursed contrary Red 
Sea! At Suez we found it was impossible to get the 
ship repaired as we wished and half the crew fell ill 
from a fever contracted on the Arabian coast — so we 
waited two weeks more for them to get well, and finally, 
leaving Old Joe the Malay to be shipped home, and 
hiring a couple of Greeks, we took a chance and sailed 
for Italy. Luck was now with us, and we made port in 
Savona in Italy and prepared to go in dry dock. 

We rented a charming Italian Villa some two miles 
from the town ; it was Spring, and here in northern Italy 
the Spring was beautiful beyond compare. Oh, we 
were going to have a wonderful time there while the 
Wisdom was made seaworthy. Then, Westward Ho 
for America ! 

We moved to the villa, leaving aboard one of the 
Greeks that evening for night watchman. The next 
morning we were awakened by the excited local ship 

"Your ship, she burn!" 

He rushed us to the water-front in his automobile. 
But we had come too late. There, out in the stream, 

The Last Landfall of the Sea Gypsy 289 

where the night before had been the little Wisdom, still 
white and graceful and lovely despite her long wander- 
ings and many late bufferings, was a hulk all smoke 
and flames. 
The sea gypsy had made her last landfall.